Broken Promises – Chapter 32

Chapter 32

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.

Like now.

“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.

“I’ll try.”

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.

Chapter 31
Chapter 33

Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes

Broken Promises – Chapter 31

Chapter 31

The launch bay was chaotic. Technicians running back and forth trying to clear the cramped space of illegal merchandise. Spaceships of all different shapes and sizes were maneuvering to leave. Everyone was running and Kara still did not know from who.

“Who is this person that is causing so much panic?” Kara whispered from the doorway they were hiding in. It was an obscure place in the back corner of the bay that lead to a side hall rarely used.

When Thomas didn’t answer right away, Kara glanced up at him. The considering expression was back again. Kara could feel he was warring with himself about how much he should tell her.

“Thomas?” she prompted suspicion thick in her voice.

Sighing, his shoulders slumped in resignation. “You know it is not fair that you can read me so well,” he protested gently.

“It’s a gift, or curse,” Kara shrugged. “Depends on how you look at it and what day it is.” She was rewarded with a small chuckle.

“Everyone is in an uproar because it’s the Emperor’s emissary that is coming for you.”

Kara could only blink at him in response. The emperor? The most powerful, dangerous being in the universe was looking for her?

“My lady? Are you all right?”

“Why would he want me?” she asked hoarsely. Suddenly running away with Anthony sounded like a much better idea then giving herself over to someone who might be far worse than Colin.

“He has always wanted you. It’s the reason Colin fetched you in the first place. Originally he was supposed to take you straight the emperor, but because he became greedy, you managed to escape him. When he finally recaptured you, instead of taking you straight to the emperor as he was ordered he decided to keep you for himself. We’ve been keeping one step ahead of the emperor’s scouts ever since. Until now, that is,” he frowned looking out at the large doors and space beyond.

In the distance something moved. The stars seemed to swirl for a moment then suddenly there was a large cruiser that dwarfed their ship hovering over them. The silence in the landing bay was sudden and disorienting. Kara held her breath, for not only was the ship impressive, the sudden materialization of armed men in the middle of the bay was even more impressive. It took a moment for the workers to realized they were no longer alone. Once they did they dropped whatever they were carrying and scattered. Soon the only ones left where the five figures dressed in red flight suites with long red capes and boots that reached their knees, and helmets that covered their heads. Each held a long staff that crackled and snapped with some sort of energy.

In the middle of them was another figure dressed completely in black. Except for his hair. That stood out like a beacon amongst the darkness surrounding him, and when he looked directly at Kara as if he knew where she stood, his sky blue eyes pierced her down to her soul.

Suddenly it was hard to breathe. Putting her hand over her chest, Kara gasped for air as she desperately tried to break the hold the dark sorcerer had on her. How did she know what he was? The answer came with a clarity that sent her spinning. She knew because with that one look everything about him was laid bare to her soul. With the same clarity she knew that everything about her had been laid bare to him, and what he saw enraged him.

“Kara?” Thomas called, taking her arm and gently shaking her. “What is happening?”

“I don’t know,” she whispered still entranced by the stranger. No, not stranger anymore. His name was Aden Sahen, or at least it was in this lifetime, and she knew him. Not from anywhere she had been, or anything she may have seen on a news monitor or paper, but from another time long ago. One filled with pain and anger and…. The last she could not quite put a name to. It was strength and peace and a love so profound it took what little breath she had away. With that one look from across a vast distance, Kara was irrevocable his as he was hers, and there was no force in any universe or reality that could break a bond that had been forged before what was known to be the beginning of time.

Without taking his eyes off her, Aden’s lips moved and the men around him slipped away into the surrounding bay. It was only then the fierce predatory expression melted into one of awe and wonder. So entranced by him – were those wings behind him? – Kara did not hear the fighting around her, did not understand the danger until she took a step towards Aden and a hand clamped down over her mouth while an arm slipped around her waist, slamming her against a hard body.

“You are mine!” Anthony hissed in her ear right before he dragged her away from her destiny.

*   *   *

Kara’s eyes opened to see the white shiplap boards of the farmhouse ceiling. Around her tension was high as Brynn and Tanis tried to digest what they just saw. What they could no longer deny.

“What happened after Anthony found you?” Tanis asked quietly.

Resettling herself so she sat up in the chair and could see the two men around her, Kara sighed. “He tried to reach his ship so he could escape with me, but Aden’s men had it surrounded. So he took me back to the command deck where Colin was trying to negotiate his way out of the entire ship being destroyed for betraying the Emperor. He was talking with Aden’s second in command and had no idea Aden was already on the ship.”

“You said you were given a choice as to whether to stay or go with Aden,” Brynn said moving so he sat on the edge of the couch, his elbows resting on his knees as he frowned at Kara. “I felt what you felt when you saw Aden. There was no choice, was there.”

Kara shook her head, her eyes downcast. There was no guilt or regret of what happened that day, only guilt over lying to Brynn.

When she looked up into Brynn’s eyes, she begged him to understand. “I could no more walk away from Aden as I could willing walk away from you.” She turned her eyes to Tanis. “Or you. In that split second we were one.”

“But it is different than it is with us,” Tanis said, his voice unhappy.

“Yes,” Kara answered her eyes not leaving him.

“It’s…more,” he added.

This time Kara only nodded.

They sat staring at each other for a moment, different thoughts, images, racing through their heads as Tanis sifted through her memories and Kara allowed it. With a sigh that reached his toes, Tanis closed his eyes and rubbed his face wearily. Dropping his arms onto the arms of the chair heavily, he blinked up at the ceiling, gathering himself, then sat forward on the chair, mimicking Brynn’s pose.

“Mother said we must remember, but I still don’t understand what. What was is so important about yours and Aden’s connection?”

“I think it was the feeling of knowing him,” Brynn suggested. “When I bonded with Kara, I knew we belonged together, but I didn’t feel as if I knew her. That the connection between us was somehow…preordained. Does that make sense?” he frowned.

“Strangely yes,” Tanis answered thinking through Brynn’s words. “Where our connection is old, and we come together every two thousand years because it is, as you say, preordained. Their connection seems much older. Their souls are not two souls coming together, but one that had been ripped apart and is once again made whole.”

“So what does that all mean?” Brynn asked more confused than he was before.

Tanis looked at Kara, as lost as Brynn. “I don’t know. I really don’t know.”

Brynn turned his attention to Kara, what he had to say next making him uncomfortable. “While what you showed us helps us understand your and Aden’s connection better, it does not tell us what Malphas did to you that Aden does not want to relive.”

Abruptly Kara stood and paced away, unable to meet either of their gazes. “I don’t think it is necessary to show you. Brynn already knows most of it, and Tanis….”

Arms circled her waist, gently pulling her back into a warm body. “Will not judge you,” Tanis breathed in her ear, placing a gentle kiss on her neck. Holding his arms to her as tightly as she could, Kara tried to stem the tears that suddenly fell with abandonment. “Hey!” he called turning her so she faced him. “No more tears,” he coaxed brushing those that fell away. “We have cried enough tears for that bastard. We will give him no more.”

A sudden sharp pain lanced through Kara’s abdomen, buckling her knees.

“Kara!” Tanis cried out catching her before she hit the ground.

“What happened?” Brynn demanded, on his feet and next to them as Tanis reached down and picked Kara’s legs up.

“I don’t know,” Tanis answered walking to the couch and carefully lying her down on it. Taking her hand, he sat down next to her.

“The wards have been broken,” Aden answered from the doorway. Both men looked to see him leaning against the door jam, white with pain. “They are connected to Kara so in the chance she decided to leave their safety Caius would know. Colin must have finally broken them and now he is attacking her in order to weaken her.”

“That means he’s on his way here,” Brynn said, worry lacing his voice. “Do you know where they were broken?”

“By the farm,” Aden answered grimly.

“The children,” Brynn hissed heading for the door.

“No,” Aden said putting up a hand to stop him. “I’ll go. You may be powerful in your own right,” he responded to Brynn’s glare, “but there are two of them and the gods only know how many men with weapons.” Grimacing as he stood straight, Aden locked eyes with Brynn. “I’ll protect them with my life, but I doubt he will go for the children. They have waited to long to find her, and Anthony’s obsession will only see the end prize. Not what lays in-between.”

“Colin is not so shortsighted,” Tanis reminded. “And by the look of you, you are as compromised as Kara. Which brings a question to mind. Why are you affected where I am not?”

“If I told you the answer, you would not like it and Kara is in enough pain. She does not need your or Brynn’s anger to add to it. Besides, I’m still upright and Colin is no match for me even at my weakest,” Aden grimaced as another stabbing pain shot through him. Kara moaned on the couch, her hand squeezing Tanis’s as she writhed in pain. He turned his attention back to Brynn. “Kara needs you here. Chris and I will take care of the others.” Pushing himself off the doorjamb, Aden moved towards Kara, stopping short when Tanis was suddenly in his way.

“I don’t care what Mother or the prophecy says, or what happened on that damn ship. Kara is not now or never will be yours,” Tanis hissed.

Aden’s frown turned into a scowl, but he kept quiet. They did not have time to fight amongst themselves. Not if they wanted to survive.

“You are here because evidently we cannot do this without you,” Tanis continued, his fury barely contained. “While you are here, you will keep your distance from my wi…from her. Do I make myself clear?”

“Perfectly,” Aden answered calmly, a small smile on his lips. It satisfied him that Tanis could not claim Kara as his wife. Aden knew it had taken a great deal for him not to say it with Brynn so close. The only male here who could truly make that claim. And there was one little piece of information that Aden knew was irritating Tanis to no end. He was not strong enough to keep Aden away from Kara. Not anymore.

When had it come to this? Aden thought. The three of them having to feel as if they needed to fight for her. Aden realized it became that way the minute they were all together. As Tanis turned to Kara and picked her up in his arms, heading for the stairs and the rooms above, a flash of jealousy scorched its way through Aden. Clenching his teeth and fists he turned towards the door to see Brynn watching them. When Aden drew near him, he could see Brynn was having the same difficulties he was seeing Kara in Tanis’s arms by how tightly his fists were clenched. Aden stepped next to him, his eyes going back to the stairs and Tanis’s disappearing feet.

“It seems we have something in common,” Aden murmured.

“What could we possibly have in common?” Brynn asked through clenched teeth, not looking at him.

Aden glanced at Brynn with an amused expression. “We both love what will never be ours alone,” he said quietly.

Brynn turned his glare towards Aden. “You have no claim to Kara, sorcerer.”

“After what you have seen, what you felt, you know that is not true.”

Brynn was taken aback by how unhappy Aden’s voice sounded. He had not realized how deeply Aden’s feelings truly were until this moment. It still did not change anything.

“Stay away from her,” Brynn repeated Tanis’s warning.

Turning so he faced the door, Aden leaned in towards Brynn. “She has not told you everything,” Aden whispered. “And I didn’t show you everything,” he added looking at Brynn. This time Aden’s smile was pained as he looked into Brynn’s shocked eyes. “You and Tanis cannot even begin to imagine the horrors she has been through. Neither of you were there to pick her up off the floor when the Emperor tortured her for days on end, barely clinging onto life. Neither of you were there to pull the men off her because the emperor decided to give her to an entire garrison to use however they pleased.” He watched with satisfaction as the color drained from Brynn’s face and he staggered backwards, grabbing a chair for support. Aden leaned in, his voice a hiss, “You may be her husband, the father of her children, and Tanis may have some cosmic claim to her, but do not think for one moment that I will release my claim on her heart. On her soul. Whether or not you want to accept it, she is bound to me and she loves me. It may not be the love she has for Tanis, or the love she has with you, but it is mine.”

“Maybe what you say is true,” Brynn responded, his voice strangely detached as his mind reeled in shock from the horrors Aden had just told him, “but she will never yours alone.”

“No. She may never be mine alone. But I will not give up the part of her I do have,” Aden responded, his voice filled with his conviction. Without another word he walked out of the house, stiff with anger. He needed an outlet, and that bastard and his son who was coming for Kara was the perfect target.

Brynn followed Aden to the doorway, watching as the male jumped the steps and began to run towards his home, thinking about what he had learned today. With a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, Brynn knew Aden was right. Kara did belong to him in a way Brynn could not comprehend, but what did that have to do with this prophecy or Malphas. What was it Kara’s mother wanted them to remember? According to her they needed to figure that out sooner rather than later. Turning back into the house, Brynn headed upstairs. While they had the time, he needed to talk to Tanis and figure this puzzle out before it was too late. For all of them.

Chapter 30
Chapter 32

Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes

Broken Promises – Chapter 30

Chapter 30

Where to begin. One would think at the beginning, but which one? No need to go back to the original beginning where she Tanis and Caius first met. Nothing there would help them in this situation, and they did not have that kind of time.

Brynn was with her when Colin first found her, and as Tanis had reminded her, he knew those memories almost as well as if they were his own. Kara saw no need to relive the horrors of what was done to her in a bid to break her to his will, or what she had done with Anthony to keep her sanity. How she had allowed herself to fall into the trap that was her curse. To allow another’s emotions become her own. She was not proud of what she had done, and she did not want to risk alienating Brynn by showing him the truth of those years she had been taken from him. He was struggling enough with what his imagination was conjuring to fill in the empty spaces between what she had already told him.

Her mother and Chris had said that Aden was a vital part of what was to come. That they must all remember. The question was, remember what? Maybe the best place to start, then, was when she had met Aden for the first time. Kara shied away from that idea. She had not been in a good place when Aden found her. Broken in spirit, bruised in body, addicted to the desire, the false peace Anthony brought her, Kara was a shell of herself. A wanton creature who would do anything to escape the horrors Colin inflicted upon her. There was also the danger of falling into those memories, back into the addiction. With Anthony so near, that was not what Kara wanted to chance.

I will be with you, Aden’s voice breathed through her mind. I will not allow you to become lost to those memories. Remember, I am your new addiction, he teased.

“What’s so funny?” Tanis asked when a giggle escaped Kara’s lips.

“Nothing,” she smirked. Aden had been careful to keep his thoughts only for her. Smart boy.

“Hmmm,” Tanis murmured, not believing her for a second. Louder, so it could be heard through the open window. “Out of her head, dark one.” A nickname Tanis used for Aden because he knew it irked the male. “We don’t have time for your games.”

“No idea what you are talking about,” Aden’s innocent voice floated through the window from outside.

“What’s going on?” Brynn asked looking from Tanis to Kara, who was still sitting back in her chair, eyes closed. Although she could not quite keep her lips from twitching upwards. Something was amusing her, and it seemed he and Tanis were not invited in on the joke.

“Are we through?” Tanis asked.

“Yes,” Kara answered quickly, settling more into her chair. With a deep sigh, she relaxed her body and her mind. Opening it up to those who were nearest. Once the link between them was solidified, she sifted through her memories until she came to the one she wanted. Praying that Tanis and Brynn would not judge her too harshly, she allowed the memory to play….

*   *   *

“Kara! Kara! Wake up!” a voice hissed in her ear.

Groaning in protest, Kara rolled over in her bed away from the annoying snake. That alone should have told her something was not quite right. They were on a spaceship somewhere deep in space. There were no snakes. Unless they happened upon some strange creature that resembled a snake that they had never heard of. The gods knew that had happened once or twice.

“Kara!” it called more urgently.

The lights blared to life. What the hell! Crying out in protest, Kara threw her blankets over her head and snuggled in deeper under them. Blessed darkness. Why was someone trying to wake her up so early? Yesterday, after she had collapsed during the interrogation of a spy they had found among the command deck crew, Colin had promised her extra sleep today. The communications officer that had been with them since Kara had been recaptured six years ago seemed harmless enough. He had blended in seamlessly with the crew, making friends easily. A perfect undercover position for someone who needed to get messages out to his employers without being discovered.

How he was finally caught Kara did not know. What she did know as his mind had been protected by someone far more powerful than she was. When she had collapsed from sheer exhaustion, only Anthony’s interference, and strangely the spies, had kept Colin from dragging her to her feet and forcing her to continue. She should have known Colin would not keep his word. He never did when it came to her. She was a tool to use, or abuse, at his digression. Her wellbeing was not of importance.

The covers she hid under were suddenly yanked off her, exposing her nude body to the cold room and her sensitive eyes to the blaring lights. Although her room was spacious and comfortable, heat was not a luxury Colin afforded her. The room was not freezing, only warm enough to keep the cold of space at bay.

“Ayeee!” she cried out grabbing for the missing blankets and the warmth they provided.

“Kara! Get up!” the voice she now recognized as Anthony’s snapped.

Something soft smacked her in the face. Catching them in her arm, the other one was holding her up, she cracked her eyelids open to see it was her wrinkled clothes she had left on the floor by the bed.

“Anthony…,” she began in protest.

“We don’t have time to argue. We have to leave the ship. Now!” he interrupted before she could argue that she had only, what? Kara looked at the clock next to her bed. One hour of sleep! Normally when woke suddenly and told to move she obeyed immediately. It only took once to teach her that to argue only lead to pain. It did not mean she went along meekly with every order Colin gave. Some of the things he asked of her went against everything she believed in. But to argue for a few more minutes of sleep was not worth a day of enduring whatever new horror Colin devised to punish her.

Anthony was different. Usually his patience with her was infinite. Today not so much, which meant something was very wrong.

Rolling so her feet were over the side of the bed as she sat up, Kara fumbled with her clothes. Space was cold, so the clothing was made from a special material that kept them warm while being light and breathable. As Kara held up the crimson halter top to the matching leggings she wished for some of that clothing. Or at least more of it. There was a tunic that went over all of this somewhere in the room, but even that material was sheer. It made it very dangerous for Kara to walk the halls alone, which was probably the reason Colin dressed her like this. Unless she had an escort, she stayed hidden in her rooms, and even then it was not a guarantee that one of the many addicted warriors on this ship would not try to break into her rooms.

“What’s going on?” she asked dropping the leggings on the bed next to her. Straightening what material there was of the halter, she slipped the strap over her head and pulled the front down over her chest. While she was not large by any means, the halter was designed to emphasize what she did have in a way of a chest while showing as much skin as possible. The only reason she stayed in the damn thing was because of the straps that crisscrossed in front, keeping the material from sliding sideways. After she lifted, shifted and wrangled her breasts in place, she grabbed her leggings.

“We figured out where the spy came from, “Anthony answered hitting the button that opened her closet.

“Who?” she asked shoving one foot into her leggings and yanking the tight material over it.

“Someone we’ve been hiding you from,” he answered absently throwing shoes out onto the floor. “These will have to do” he grunted. “Don’t you have any…?” Anthony had turned around to catch Kara as she shimmed into her leggings, her hands holding the waist up around her ribcage, elbows out, hair in disarray from the little sleep she had managed. It wasn’t the sexiest pose, but even though she had material on her body, the tightness of that material left very little to the imagination.

When the wave of lust washed over Kara, she froze. Looking up she found Anthony frozen in place, his eyes dark with hunger, his breaths coming in small pants. Kara recognized what she was seeing all too well. A reaction to who she was, or what she was, that lead to her on her back lost in the desire of those around her. The way Anthony had just been acting, Kara did not think they had any time to feed his addiction.

Slowly lowering her hands, she began to carefully back away from Anthony. If she was lucky and made no sudden moves, she just may avoid what came next. Stopping after taking one step back, Kara had a dangerous thought. One that could massively backfire if she was wrong. What if whoever was looking for her could help her escape? Maybe that was why they were coming. To rescue her from Colin.

The sound of her shoes hitting the floor brought her attention back to the hungry male slowly advancing upon her, and the danger he posed. It was then she realized that even though she felt his lust pulsing at her in waves, she was not falling victim to the emotions, drowning as his need became hers. That should not have been possible as weak as she was. Not that she was questioning this miracle by any means, but how was that possible?

Anthony left her no more time to think about the why. With a deep growl, he advanced on her like a hunger panther advances on its prey. Quickly glancing around the room, Kara spotted her clock. While not very big, made from a rare type of rock found on one particular planet, it was heavy. A present from one of the warriors who was always gentle with her, taking her into his room not to have sex, but to allow her some reprieve from the others. Tending to her wounds, helping her crawl out of the onslaught of desire with his own sense of calm and control. She had kept it to remind herself that there was still mercy and kindness in the universe. Now it would serve to help her escape from the hell that he had desperately tried to save her from.

“Anthony,” Kara called in a vain attempt to break through the lust filled haze that she knew surrounded the male. Reaching back, she picked up the heavy clock. “I thought we needed to leave.”

To her dismay Anthony stopped in his tracks. Fists clenched at his sides, he tightly closed his eyes, shaking his head trying to clear it. No! Kara screamed inside her head. Today could not be the day he decided to fight what he felt around her. She needed him out of control so he would not realize what she was doing.

“Yes,” he croaked clearly fighting some internal battle. “I…need to.” He shook his head again. “We need to get to my ship, before….” It was then he made the mistake of opening his eyes to see Kara standing before him. “I need to…,” he whispered.

“What?” Kara whispered back, putting a little seduction in her voice.

“I need….” This time his voice was so soft that Kara could barely hear him. “You.”

Before Kara could react he was in front of her, reaching for her. When her body slammed against his, he groaned as if he had just tasted the best delicacy that the universe could devise. Then his lips were on hers and there were no more sounds. This close, skin touching skin, usually Kara was lost. So when her hand came up with the clock and smashed into the side of Anthony’s head, she was not sure who was more shocked. Him or her.

With a cry of pain, Anthony lurched sideways, his hand instinctively going to the side of his head that was in pain. Kara did not wait. She hit him again as hard as she could and he dropped like a stone.

“What’s going on in there?” a voice demanded from the other side of the door.

Staring at the door in horror, the now bloody clock still in her hand, Kara froze.

“My lord?” the voice called. “I know you told us not to come in, but if you don’t answer soon we will enter.”

Spurring into action, Kara quickly hid the clock under her pillow. Kneeling next to Anthony, she checked to see if he was still breathing. Relief washed through her when she felt the hot hair coming from his nose. She may want to escape him, but she did not want to kill him. A little voice in the back of her head quipped that she might regret that decision later. Standing, she glanced around her.

“Help!” she called when she saw the ballet type slippers where Anthony had dropped them. While not ideal for space travel, like he had said, they would have to do. “Hurry!” she called again quickly picking up the shoes and moving out of the way. “Anthony is hurt!”

The doors swished opened and two very tall, very imposing males rushed into the room. Kara gave them enough of her attention to see that it was the only two twins that Colin had in his employ. Memories of what they had done to her on nights when they caught her alone or were on guard duty outside her door sent a shudder through her body. Sadistic to the core, their favorite thing to do was to tie her up and double team her. One of those nights had left her incapable of going with Colin on an important diplomatic mission. He had lost a lot of money that day, and in retaliation they were forbidden to go anywhere near her. A punishment Kara wholly agreed with. Why Anthony had chosen to bring them with him was beyond her.

“What happened?” the one called Drey demanded kneeling down next to Anthony’s unconscious body.

“It happened so fast. He was coming towards me and tripped over these shoes.” She held up the shoes in her hands to show them. “He hit his head on the side of the bed and now he won’t wake up,” Kara explained putting as much worry and panic in her voice as she could. The panic was not really all that hard. Especially as she noticed the older of the two was watching her with the same expression as Anthony had been.

“He’s still alive,” Drey announced with a fare amount of relief. “Bastian, go fetch the healer.”

“Fetch him yourself,” Bastian growled, his eyes never leaving Kara.

Drey was on his feet pushing his brother out the door so fast, Kara barely had time to track it. “Fetch the healer, Bastian!” he snapped. “If we allow Colin’s son to die because you could keep your head out of your pants, we’ll be next.”

“Fine!” Bastian huffed.

“And if you can’t be of help here, stay away,” Drey called down the corridor.

There was some response that Kara did not quite catch but was sure was some obscenity.

With a sound of utter frustration, Drey turned back into the room and froze when he saw Kara and what she was wearing. With visible effort, he forced his gaze away and moved to kneel next to Anthony. “You better put something else on, witch, before the others return or we will have more casualties than the young lord,” he ordered hoarsely.

Good idea, Kara thought quickly slipping her shoes on, she grabbed the black sheer tunic that was draped over a nearby chair and slipped it on. Once it fell to where it touched the floor, the sleeves coming to a point at her hands, she went to her closet and pulled out a thick black cape. Laying it over her shoulders, she hooked the front closed at the neck with a plain silver clasp. She had just pulled the deep cowl over her head, hiding her face in its shadows, when they heard voices. Pressing herself up against the wall near the doorway, Kara tried to make herself as invisible as possible.

“My Lord,” the healer gasped when he saw Anthony lying in a growing pool of blood. Another guard followed him in, both of them completely ignoring Kara in the worry about Anthony. “What happened!” the healer demanded of Drey as he knelt next to Anthony, opening the bag he had brought and rummaging around in it.

As Drey began to explain what Kara had told him, she quietly slipped out the door into the hallway. Looking both ways to make sure no one else was lurking, she quickly made her way down the hall towards the landing bay. Her reasoning was whoever was coming would have to land their ship there and then make their way up to Colin’s receiving room not far from her rooms. Unfortunately, that put her room was the furthest way from said landing bays. It meant Kara had a long way to go without being caught. That was if the males in her room did not realize she was missing. Otherwise her freedom would be short lived. It was a miracle that the hallway was this deserted. Usually there were at least two or three people coming and going. As she rounded another corner to find no one in her line of sight, Kara was starting to wonder if the same reason Anthony’s emotions had not overwhelmed her was the same reason the halls were strangely empty. Unfortunately, she had lost her faith in miracles a long time ago.

For as long as Kara had been held prisoner, there was only one way she knew how to get to the landing bay at the back of the ship. As she neared it, she realized why the halls were so deserted. Everyone was here scrambling to ready themselves for some sort of fight. Luckily they were too intent on their tasks to notice the cloaked figure making its way as discreetly as it could through the chaos. At least that was what she thoughts until an iron grip clamped down on her arm and pulled her into a storage room.

“What are you doing down here?” a familiar voice hissed in concern.

It was her gentle warrior that had found her. Thomas. The wave of relief that shot through Kara was short lived. He may have refused to join in with the others and their sadistic ways, but it did not mean he was completely immune to her curse. Being careful to keep herself covered with her cloak, she looked up at the tall well-built male. While not has handsome as some of the others, his kindness made up for any flaws that others might see as repellent.

“Thomas,” she gasped, struggling to come up with a valid excuse as to why she was this far away from her rooms. “I had to escape. In the chaos of what is happening, Drey and Bastian broke into my rooms.” She did not need to explain more.

“What?” he snarled, absently tightening his grip on her arm. “I’ll kill them!”

“No!” Kara cried putting her hand on his. While he was a fierce warrior, he was no match for the twins. “I just need to hide until I can tell my master what they did.”

“You really think that bastard would care?” Thomas spat. Treasonous words that frightened Kara.

“Don’t say things like that,” she cried quietly.

Thomas’s eyes searched her face, his expression melting from anger to consideration before relaxing into something that frustrated as much as terrified her. Somehow he had figured out the real reason she was down by the landing bay instead of trying to find Anthony or Colin.

Damn him, Kara thought. He’s too smart for his own good.

Looking at the door, his grip still firmly around Kara’s arm, he seemed to come to some sort of decision.

“Come on,” he said pulling her towards the doorway. “If this is to work, we need to make sure he finds you before Colin does.” Punching the button next to the door, it slid open. Poking his head out, Thomas made sure no one was looking in their direction before pulling Kara out of the storage room.

“He who?” Kara asked doing her best to keep up with his long strides.

“The one who has been looking for us, or more importantly you,” Thomas answered.

“I don’t understand. Who has been looking for me?”

“You’ll see,” he answered cryptically dropping her arm. “If we are to make it to the bay unhindered, you need to walk ahead of me.”

Knowing that was all she was going to get out of him for now, Kara moved so she walked in front Thomas as he escorted her to the landing bay. For the first time hope soared inside her. Today could be the day she finally escaped.

Chapter 29
Chapter 31

Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes

Broken Promises – Chapter 29

Chapter 29

It had been a long painful afternoon mentally and physically, but it was nothing Kara had not been through before. She was starting to think that everything she had endured was so that she would be able to tolerate the pain it caused her to be in the same room with this much anger and distrust. The icing on the proverbial cake was the jealousy that coated the air like thick molasses. There was a time Kara could shield herself from other’s emotions, but with the necklace and spells Malphas had weaved around her limiting her powers she no longer had the strength. Not with Brynn pacing the floor in front of her while Tanis hovered behind her. She had purposefully chosen an arm chair in the spacious great room. Part of the remodel that had been done on the old farmhouse before they moved in. So there was plenty of space for Brynn to pace. Sitting in the arm chair meant that there was no room for someone else, therefore she did not have to choose, and it was one less fight she had to deal with.

On the other side of the coffee table in front of Kara, Chris was perched on the edge of the couch, angrily watching his father. They had been arguing for the last fifteen minutes whether or not Chris should go back to the farm to keep an eye on his sister and younger cousins. Tanis was agreeing that he should leave because he was too young. That he had already proved he could not follow orders and how could a mere boy know anything about a centuries long battle waged by the gods. The rising tension was only adding to the mounting headache that was threatening to explode within Kara’s head. Someone had to give soon, or she would be comatose again from the pain.

Glancing at the back of the room, Kara tried to latch onto the only calm in the boiling sea around her. With a deep frown, his eyes tight with concern as he watched her, Kara could feel Aden’s presence swirling around her. He was trying to block some of the emotions, but like her, his powers were bound tight. It did not help that her anxiety was bleeding all over him. Out of the four men bound to her, Aden was the most susceptible to being overwhelmed by her feelings, as she was to his. Since that avenue was out, Aden had tried to help by pointing out to the others how much their emotions were hurting Kara to only be told to mind his own business. That he was not wanted here, so why did he not leave. Since there was no way that was going to happen, he had stood silently in the back of the room, holding up the wall, doing his best to shield Kara from the worst of the pain, which Kara was grateful for.

 “Jamie is old enough to take care of them herself,” Chris argued. “I would be better off here helping you.”

“And if Colin decides to use them to force Kara into surrendering to him?” Tanis asked. While what happened upstairs with Chris had shaken him, his exhaustion was making him reckless. The gods only knew what would happen if Chris was truly angered. If angered enough, what entity would emerge instead of the twenty-one year old mortal sitting in front of him. Unfortunately, at the moment Tanis did not care. He only cared about protecting Kara, and that there were too many males in the room staking claim to what was his. While a small part of him argued that Kara had never been truly his, another voice that was much louder kept telling him that it was time for that to change. That if there were less people there would be less pain and far more peace in their lives. That their child would be safe.

“Don’t underestimate my sister,” Chris said turning his angry eyes to Tanis. When he saw the immortal’s frown and his focus seemed to be on something internal and not on him, Chris’s anger slipped into confusion. Why keep arguing he should leave if he did not seem to care one way or the other. “She may surprise you,” Chris finished absently. What was going on?

“Maybe so, but she can’t fight everyone by herself,” Brynn pointed out, bringing Chris’s eyes and focus back to him and the argument. “Colin will not be alone. He’s always come heavily armed, and with Anthony they are a force to be reckoned with. She will not be able to keep her focus on the young ones if she is fighting multiple fronts.”

When Chris opened his mouth to argue more, Aden finally spoke up.

“Chris,” he called quietly, bringing the young man’s angry eyes to him. “Your father is right. Jamie will need your help, but that is not the only reason he asks you to leave. They need to know everything that has happened in the last six years in order to understand what must be done. Don’t ask your mother to voice her nightmares in front of her son. I’m sick enough as it is that you saw what I showed your father. Think of what it will do to her.”

 Clamping his mouth shut, his eyes going from the dark sorcerer, to his father than finally his mother, who looked beyond exhausted and pale, he realized Aden was right. Lowering his head and taking a calming breath, he stood and walked around the coffee table to kneel in front of her. Taking her hands in his, he said only loud enough so she could hear, his eyes locked with hers, “Don’t let them push Aden out. He is a vital part of this. A vital part of you.”

“I know,” Kara smiled wearily. Resting her hand on his cheek, her smile brightened. “I want you to know how proud I am of the man you have become, and that I love you with all my heart.”

“I love you too,” he breathed, his smile at her declaration threatening to split his face open.

Leaning forward, Kara placed a gentle kiss on her son’s forehead. “Now go,” she urged. “I will talk to you and your sister later. I promise.”

Nodding, he stood, his mother’s hand still in his, and turned to his father. “I’ll call Uncle Gavin and Aunt Delia and tell them what is going on. We’ll protect the little ones.”

“Thank you,” Brynn smiled, patting his son’s shoulder.

Turning his head, Chris locked eyes with Tanis. “Your job is to protect her, Angel. It’s always been to protect her. Don’t forget that.” Without waiting for Tanis to respond he turned to Aden. “There is a reason you are so connected to her. A reason you feel what each other feels, sees what each other sees far more intensely than Caius or Tanis. Why being apart harms you more than them. Remember and you will finally understand why.” They stood staring at each other, some knowledge passing between them that Tanis and Brynn did not understand. Frowning, Aden’s eyes glanced at Tanis before he nodded at Chris, some sort of understanding forming between them. Smiling one more time down at his mother, giving her hand a light squeeze, Chris turned and walked out the door.

“He is not,” Tanis began, unsure how to voice his concern about who and what Chris was.

“He is what he needs to be in this moment,” Aden answered, his eyes on the front door, the frown still in place.

“What is that suppose to mean?” Brynn asked, the father in him rising up to defend his son.

Sighing with a weariness that went bone deep, he was so tired of all this jealousy, of everyone distrusting him, Aden rubbed his forehead with his thumb and forefinger. “Everything that has been happening,” he looked at Kara, his hand pointing towards her, “all she has endured is for a reason. The universe is unbalanced. If we don’t fix that balance, and soon, it will implode. Chris has been trying to tell you this all afternoon. You two,” he moved his glare from Brynn to Tanis, “refuse to listen because you are spending more energy on being angry I am here and not enough on what is going on around you.”

“And you think you are the key to balancing the universe. You with Kara?” Tanis said his eyes narrowing in suspicion. “Very convenient don’t you think?”

Sighing in a way that said it was a wonder he had not ground his teeth to dust, Aden was so weary of this fight, he glared at Tanis, snapping, “We don’t have time for this.” When he saw Kara flinch, he softened his voice, his eyes apologetic as she looked at her. “I’m sorry, my love.” Ignoring the growls from the other males, Aden gathered as much calm around him as he could. Moving his gaze to the front door, he continued, “I am already well aware of what Kara is going to tell you.” His eyes drifted to a memory that seemed to be extremely painful. Closing his eyes, shaking himself back into the present, Aden looked at Kara again, “I know how hard this is going to be. If you need help explaining, just ask.”

“She needs nothing from you,” Tanis snarled.

“Tanis! Enough,” Kara scolded glaring up at him. “What is wrong with you? You have never been this territorial. This will be hard enough without you snapping and snarling at each other.”

Clamping his mouth shut, Tanis gave Aden a look that said they were not finished before moving to the other empty armchair next to Kara’s and plopped down.

Realizing this was the closest she was going to receive in the way of a truce, she took a deep breath to steady herself. “The best way to tell you is to show you.” She looked up at Brynn. “Why Aden has shown you some of it, if you do this with me, you will not only see what is happening, but feel what I felt. It is a very…intimate experience and I fear may change your opinion of me. I will understand if you wish not to be a part of the sharing.”

Brynn knelt in front of her, taking her hands in his, kissing the back of them gently. Then he turned his eyes to her, looking into them intently so she knew what he would say was truth. “I will not abandon you when you need me most. Just tell me where you want me and I will be there,” he vowed.

“You are where Chris gets his strength and bravery,” Kara smiled.

Returning her smile with one of his own, Brynn leaned in and tenderly kissed her on the lips. The tension in the room rose every so slightly before settling into a calm that was missing from the last few hours. Much like water settles into a calm after a wave disturbs its surface. Still filled with gentle waves. When Brynn moved back his expression was full of love. Lightly squeezing her hands once more, he released them, stood and moved to sit on the couch across from her.

Bracing herself for what might be waiting for her, taking a deep breath Kara turned her eyes to Tanis, who was watching her with a frown. There was a confusion in his eyes that she did not totally understand. She tried to see what it was that was bothering him, but something blocked her from entering his thoughts. That was strange. She was usually able to see glimpses of his thoughts. Instead, nothing. Glancing at Aden, who slightly shook his head he did not understand what was going on with the immortal any more than she did, she turned her attention back to Tanis..

“Mother says you need to know everything or else you will not be able to break the bonds that Malphas has woven around you,” she began. Frowning herself, she looked down at the back of the couch. “I don’t know if that is true, and the last thing I want you to see is the horrors that I have lived.”

“Kara,” Tanis breathed moving around to the side of the chair to kneel down beside her. “I have lived more lives than I care to count, have shared horrors with you that would turn the bravest male into nothing more than a sniveling coward.” He took her hand, absently thinking that the others had done so too, and it seemed cliché, but he needed to touch her, reassure her that whatever she was about to show them it would not change the way he felt about her. “Nothing you show me will change the way I feel about you.”

We shall see, she thought grimacing. Out loud, “Then maybe you should sit down. Aden was,” she hesitated, her eyes moving to the tall imposing figure standing a few feet away, his expression stricken, “shaken after what he was forced to endure.”

Both men looked at Aden. They saw what Kara saw. A strong man whose color had completely drained from his face; his eyes haunted, his hands trembling. A man who had been broken by what he was forced to witness over and over and over. Nodding, his own expression grim, Tanis moved back to his chair.

Kara’s eyes moved to Aden’s. There was a wealth of words said between them in that one look, but no words were spoken. There was no need. It was a look of shared horrors that both of them had lived, and desperately did not want to live again. Of course, the Fates had other ideas. Didn’t they always? Why let sleeping lions lay when you could stir up the entire den by dropping an injured gazelle in the middle of them. In the frenzy that followed a few lions would be wounded, but it was the gazelle who suffered the most as they ripped it to shreds.

“I will go outside and guard against any intruders,” Aden said his voice choked with an emotion that the others could not name but somehow understood. With another frown in Tanis’s direction, Aden followed Chris out the door, gently closing it behind them.

“Shall we begin?” Kara said settling back in her chair.

Glancing at each other, apprehension thick in the air, Tanis and Brynn followed Kara’s lead and settled back in their seats.

Her eyes on Brynn, because Tanis knew what to do, Kara instructed, “Close your eyes and relax. You will feel my presence in your mind and maybe a little pressure. If you do not fight it and just allow the images to flow it will be easer for both of us.”

Nodding, Brynn did as Kara asked. There was a slight pressure, as if someone was pushing at his mind. He immediately recognized Kara’s presence and allowed her in. That was the easy part. The hard part was not to shy away from the images that flooded his mind and filled his body with fear, pain and desire. So much desire. For the first time since he had locked eyes with his wife, Brynn wondered if he really knew who Kara was. What she was. What she was not, in any shape or form, was human.

Chapter 28
Chapter 30

Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes

Broken Promises – Chapter 28

Chapter 28

Tanis sat by the bed at the edge of the old wooden rocker with his elbows on his knees, his face in his hands, exhausted. He had done everything he could to save the baby for nothing. The moment he had cut the umbilical cord, the squalling infant had vanished from his hands. Where he was relieved the abomination was gone, he was not sure how he was going to break the news to Kara when she woke. If she ever woke.

Three days ago the impossible happened. Kara’s mortal husband and one of her eternal mates stood in the same space and time as she did. The universe had warned him to stay away, but, like the others, the shock that Colin had been mere miles away and they had not sensed him had unsettled Tanis and he had misread the signs. Something they had paid dearly for.

Tanis had felt pain before, but what had slammed into them in that meadow was a kind of pain no words in any language could come close to describing. It was as if the moment he and Brynn touched Kara the universe exploded within her. Since then Tanis had used every means at his disposal to find her. It was small solace that her body still breathed when her soul, her essence, had vanished completely from all the realms of existence. Without nourishment, it would not be long until her body followed. Tanis shuddered at that thought. If the universe had to wait another two thousand years for them to re-emerge, the gods only knew what kind of havoc Malphas would wreak on it.

“Anything?” a quiet voice asked.

Tanis looked up to see Brynn standing in the doorway, his hands in his jeans pocket, his eyes just as exhausted as Tanis’s. The two of them should have never met, yet here they were. Both fighting for the same woman’s life that they desperately loved.

“No,” he sighed looking at Kara’s sleeping form. “I’m starting to fear she will never return to me…us,” he amended after a pause.

Brynn watched Tanis in silence for a moment. He understood the haunted look in the male’s eyes. He had held that look for many years, but since the meadow he now understood something he had not before. That his time with Kara had passed. While she still loved him, she had a very important job to do, and his job now was to protect their children so the universe continued to silently spin. Something he would have to learn to do without her. The thought brought a pang of sadness to his heart, but it was tempered with the knowledge that she was never far from them. Not really. As he watched Tanis gently take Kara’s hand in his, close his eyes and bow his head in concentration, Brynn knew the male was not feeling the same assurance.

Chris had explained to him that not only had Kara fled from the excruciating pain, but her soul was nowhere to be found. Not here on the planet or in the heavens. Even the universe was empty of her presence. She was simply gone. If that was so, then why was her body still breathing? There had to be something they were missing because the Kara he knew would never willingly leave those she loved behind. So, what were they missing? Better yet, who, or what, in the universe was strong enough to hide her from them?

A familiar voice at the front door talking with Chris caught Brynn’s attention, bringing him out of his unsettling thoughts. Frowning, he looked down the hall trying to place it. Once he did, the growl of anger that escaped his lips alerted Tanis that something was wrong.

“What is it?” Tanis asked looking up at Brynn.

“Aden,” Brynn growled. “You stay here. I’ll go see what he wants.”

Tanis stood as Brynn disappeared down the hall and walked to the open window that overlooked the front of the house. Nothing seemed amiss outside. No guards or ships in the field. It must only be Aden then. Tanis wondered if Chris had somehow called him even though they had expressly told him not too. It was puzzling since the wards around them should have dampened Chris’s powers as it did theirs. If not, the boy was far stronger than Tanis had given him credit for, and something to take a closer look at.

The voices downstairs began to rise as tempers did.

“You should go down there before Aden does something he will regret,” Chris said calmly from the doorway.

Tanis looked at the young man, his eyes narrowing in irritation. “We told you not to call him.”

“And I told you we needed him,” Chris responded as calmly as he could. The immortal’s stubbornness to see what was right in front of him was beginning to grate on his nerves, not to mention probably get them all killed. Ignoring Tanis’s glare, Chris continued. “The rules have changed, Tanis. Aden is a part of this whether you want to admit it or not. If you would take your head out of your ass long enough to understand it you would know this and remember,” he snapped his own temper rising.

“I am tired of your riddles, boy,” Tanis hissed striding across the room until he stood toe to toe with Chris. “You have one role to play in the game and that is to have children to make sure the line continues. You have far overstepped your boundaries. See that you don’t do it again.”

“If it means saving every known and unknown reality, then I will step where I damn well please,” Chris growled moving so they were chest to chest. Tanis was taken aback at the determination and strength in the boy’s voice. Very few males, let alone boys, dared to stand up to him like this. “What Malphas did to my mom was the last straw. Now more than ever Aden wants to destroy who he sees as his master. If you turn him out he will do one of two things. Take Mom with him and do everything in his power to make sure you and Caius will never find her or go back to try to kill Malphas. You do not understand the power that demon wields. Unless the four of you combine your powers, break the barriers that keep you weak, keep you from remembering and face him together you will lose.”

“Aden wants something he cannot have!”

“He already has her, Angel. It is you who refused to see that,” Chris snapped, his voice echoing.

Tanis blinked in surprise at the power behind the mortal’s voice. There was something foreign, some inflection of the speech, that was different from his normal tone. And why did he call him Angel? It did not sound like an endearment, but a name, or maybe a title. Watching as Chris closed his eyes and took a deep breath to calm himself, Tanis wondered just who this boy really was.

Raised voices thick with anger floated through the open window. Aden and Brynn had moved the argument outside.

“Just go and keep them from killing each other,” Chris sighed waving the general direction of the window. “While my father may not be important to the continuation of this universe, he is important to me. I do not wish to see him killed because of your senseless jealousy.” Closing his eyes and turning he head away, Chris put his hand up to stop Tanis from saying whatever nasty retort he had to Chris’s command. “Just go,” he gritted out.

Clamping his mouth shut, Tanis glared at the boy before glancing down at Kara, his expression softening as he was unwilling to leave her alone.

“I will stay with her,” Chris promised.

After a moment’s hesitation, Tanis nodded then left the room. Chris waited until he could see all three males were outside arguing before turning back to his mother.

“It’s safe,” he whispered sitting down in Tanis’s vacant chair and taking her hand gently into his. Chris closed his eyes searching with his senses for his mother’s spirit. He felt it flicker on the edges of his consciousness. “Please come back to us. We need you. I need you.”

A tear ran down Chris’s cheek. He was so tired of having to be the adult in this fiasco. What he wanted more than ever is his mother to hold him like she did when he was a boy and tell him everything would be alright. That the monster under his bed was just a figment of his imagination. A child’s dream that he was far too old to believe in anymore. Now he knew the monster was very real, and if he did not somehow coax him mother back into the here and now, they were all doomed.

Chris opened his eyes when the hand he was holding gently squeezed his and was greeted by his mother’s warm smile.

“Mom,” he breathed throwing himself over the top of her and hugging her as best as he could.

Kara hesitated for a moment before she tightly wrapped her arms around him. They lay that way until they heard the screen door slam shut and someone take the stairs two at a time.

“That didn’t take long,” Chris smiled pulling away from Kara who smiled back. They looked to see Tanis standing in the doorway staring at her as if he thought he was seeing a ghost. Chris scrambled out of the way as Tanis rushed to the bed and pulled Kara into his arms.

“I thought I had lost you,” he breathed into her hair as they clung to each other.

“You almost did,” Kara answered sadly. “But she was very persuasive”

“She?” Tanis asked backing away so he could look Kara’s in the eyes.

“I have much to tell you.” She looked at Chris, her expression grim. “All of you.”

Chapter 27
Chapter 29

Copyright © 2018 Heidi Barnes

Broken Promises – Chapter 27

Chapter 27

Kara felt as if she was floating. She wasn’t cold and she wasn’t hot, and she wasn’t frightened. She even knew where she was before she opened her eyes. It was the same place she had been brought to before the demon had ripped her out of bed and dragged into hell. A secret she had kept from those who would ask questions she could not answer.

Slowly she opened her eyes, already knowing what she would see.

“Mother,” her voice flat.

“Hello, Kara,” Selene smiled down at her, although the smile did not reach her eyes. There was a weariness in them that Kara understood all too well. “You have suffered much and for that I am truly sorry. I only wish I could have foreseen how much.”

“Why? You told me there was nothing you could do to stop what was to come, only warn me in an attempt to prepare me. I hate to break it to you, Mother. Nothing could have prepared me for what that bastard did to me,” Kara snarled sitting up and swinging her legs over the side of the bed so she could glare at her mother.

Selene bristled under Kara’s contempt. “It does not matter what you had to endure as long as the end result was obtained, otherwise all would be lost. You know this, Kara,” she snapped.

“The end result was a demon bastard,” Kara spat.

“The end result was that you and Caius bonded and all three of you are now stronger for it. I will not apologize for helping you.”

“Helping me!” Kara shrieked slipping off the bed so she could stand nose to nose with her mother. “Malphas raped me, Mother. Brutally and repeatedly. Nothing you did ‘helped’ me escape what you deemed as my destiny.”

“Your destiny was to bond with Caius,” Selene said stepping back from her raging daughter, her voice low and even as she tried to rein in her temper. Kara’s reaction was expected and understood considering what had happened to her. Even though Selene’s initial reaction to Kara’s disrespect, she knew in this moment she deserved her hatred. Maybe even her contempt. The sadness returned, blanketing her anger. After all this time, everything they had gone through, she still was not worthy enough. Swallowing back the tears that thought brought, Selene said as calmly as she could, “That one moment when Caius broke free from his cage, when you were able to complete the ritual, that was your destiny. Now you must complete the circle.”

“I don’t even know what that means,” Kara snapped, turning away. She could not look into that woman’s hurt eyes and keep her anger, and that was puzzling. Selene deserved her rage after what she had done. “What circle?” Kara asked turning back towards Selene when she was a safe distance away.

“You, Tanis, Caius and Aden, of course,” she answered as if this small piece of information was obvious.

Even though Kara hated to admit it, once Selene voiced those names she had known what she meant, but what she was asking was impossible. Sighing, she shook her head. “That will never happen if Caius and Tanis have a say in it. They will not leave Aden and I alone long enough to say hello to each other, let alone have sex.”

“Then you need to make them understand,” Selene suggested, her anger returning a notch.

Kara snorted. “I’m afraid that is easier said than done. To them Aden is the enemy, not the ally.”

“Then the universe will come to chaos and ruin,” Selene sighed with a fair amount of resignation.

“Why is Aden so important? Maybe if I understood his role better I could convince them otherwise. I know who I am. I am the Key. The glue between good and evil, between Caius and Tanis, that keeps the universe moving forward instead of spinning into chaos.”

“The universe is always in chaos, no matter which reality we are in” Selene corrected.

Kara frowned. Reality? “If that is so, why are we here?” Kara asked.

“Because a very long time ago mistakes were made, and in order to fix them lessons had to be taught and learned, choices made. Until those three things were accomplished there would be no end. No peace,” Selene answered the last said so softly Kara almost missed it. Placing her hand gently on Kara’s shoulder, her expression almost holding a desperation that Kara could not understand, Selene said, “We thought we had it right this time. That you would be so proud of us and we could finally rest.” She dropped her hand, her expression growing weary and sad. “We should have known it would not last. It never lasts.”

Before Kara could respond to her mother’s strange words and odd behavior, Selene’s eyes grew wild. This time she grabbed both of Kara’s shoulders, gripping them painfully.

“You must find a way to defeat Malphas before it’s too late. In a bid to own you, to rule everything, he will take everyone you hold dear and destroy them. You must not let that happen! You must come together or all we have endured will be for nothing!”

Putting her hands on her mother’s arms, Kara tried to reason with her. “I can’t fight him, Mother. None of us can. Not while I am wearing the necklace and bound by his spells.”

The wild look turned into one of pure rage as Selene’s eyes shifted down to the cursed necklace around her daughter’s neck. “Aden can remove that blasphemy piece of metal,” she snarled. “He always could but lies and fear have stayed his hands and you both have suffered for it.” She shifted her eyes back to Kara. “But first you must break Tanis’s chains for there is another danger that will soon be upon you, and your protector needs to be free to defend you.”

“My protector? Danger? Mother, you are not making any sense. How do I break Tanis free?”

With an abruptness that shocked Kara into stillness leaving her blinking, Selene released her shoulders, stood tall and completely calm before her.

“You must tell him,” Selene’s somber voice answered in the stillness. “His anger over what he found, and your condition was not enough to break the spells. He needs to know everything the demon has done to you. Only then will you truly understand who and what you are. Only then you will understand.”

“I can’t,” Kara breathed, her hand on her chest, the thought of Tanis knowing what she had done, how she had responded with eagerness and wanton to the demon’s touch making her ill all over again. “It was bad enough Caius and Aden know. That Aden can love me, still bear to look at me when I cannot even look at myself, amazes me. I could not bear it if Tanis turned away from me.”

“Then all is lost,” Selene said with a shrug of her shoulders. It was as if she no longer cared.

“You are not making any sense!” she cried out in frustration.

“Tell him, and you will find your answers,” Selene repeated as her body began to fade into mist.

“Don’t you dare leave me like this, Mother!” Kara yelled grabbing for her only to catch nothing.

“Go back and tell them. All of them. Only then will you understand,” Selene’s voice floated around her, drifting away on the wind.

“I can’t,” Kara breathed. “I came here because I could not handle the pain of Tanis and Brynn touching me at the same time. I felt as if I was drowning in it.”

There was no answer. Her mother was gone and Kara had more questions than answers. Bowing her head, she knew she had no choice. She could not allow the demon inside of Caius tear apart what they had fought so hard for. She also could not leave behind those she loved to fight alone. Not like this. Already she could feel the strain her absence was having on them. On her.

“Very well,” she whispered. “I will do as you ask.”

“You are strong enough for this, my child,” Selene’s voice assured, her voice floating all around Kara like a caress. In a way it comforted her. “When you go back the baby will be gone. Malphas knows something has happened, but even with all his power it will take him time to reach you. It will give you time to regain your strength and figure out how to defeat him.”

“But at what cost? Everything has changed. So many innocents are involved. It was never supposed to be this way.”

“That is where you are wrong, my lady,” Selene breathed, her presence once again fading. “Remember, or all will be for naught. All will be lost.”

Chapter 26
Chapter 28

Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes

Broken Promises – Chapter 26

Chapter 26

Chris paced restlessly across the small meadow, his route mapped out by the flattened grass and wildflowers. He knew he shouldn’t have sent out a call, but it had been two weeks since his mother had returned and there had been no sign of her coming to find them. So Chris took it upon himself to go to her, or at least meet her halfway. It was why he chose this meadow. Surrounded by tall trees, it was open, sunny and place almost directly in between their two farms. He had come here before, hoping just his presence might bring her, but that had not worked.

The moment Kara had stepped through the wards they knew she was home. It was like a weight they had not known they were carrying was suddenly lifted and they could breathe easier. Because she was so young when their mother had been taken from them, Jesse wasn’t as affected, but his father. It had been a long time since Chris had seen his father smile without his eyes remaining haunted, or even laugh out loud. It seemed that even though his father knew she probably would not remember him, or even want to see him, the fact that she was home was enough. Yet as time pushed on and there was no word, or even a glimpse of her, that smile started to fade. Still, they waited patiently.

Yesterday he had found his father staring in the direction of his mother’s house with such loss that Chris’s patience had ran out. Not only did he want to watch the light fade from his father’s eyes, he had so many questions bouncing around his head that needed answers, and the only way he would get them answered was to ask his mother. He also had to warn her of the danger before it was too late. Hopefully she would come soon because he was running out time before his father realized where he had gone. The downside of being magical is the link between parent and children. It was really hard to get away with anything when the parent could hear your every thought.

One more turn across the field and still no sign of his mother. A sudden thought brought him to a halt, anxiety shooting through him. She had to be at least six or seven months pregnant, and he had no idea how the pregnancy was progressing. Since she was carrying something that was part demon, there was a good chance that the baby might take more from her than a normal baby. His eyes snapped to the direction of her house. Maybe this was too far. Maybe he should have chosen something closer. Closing his eyes, he groaned, slapping his forehead with his hand at his stupidity. Gods, he was such an idiot. That was why she had never come to them, and now that he had pestered her into finally meeting him it must be taxing what little strength she had left.

“I have to tell her not to come,” he said turning to move back into the center of the meadow. A figure standing just inside the tree line at the far side froze him. Too far into the shadows, Chris could not make much out, just that whoever it was was of medium height and of slender build. Yet, there was something about it, something familiar. When the figure took a step into the sunlight, Chris forgot to breathe. Never had he seen such a beautiful creature, nor had he felt such power. It overwhelmed him, brought him to his knees, demanded to be worshiped for the goddess she was. Long auburn hair drifted in the breeze around her, hints of red, orange and browns glinting in the sun. With a blink of her extraordinary hazel eyes, the power receded, and Chris could once again think clearly. That was when he noticed the swell of her belly.

“Mother?” he whispered.

“Hello, Chris,” she greeted, the warmth of her voice reaching her smile and eyes.

“You remember me?” he asked.

“Of course I do,” Kara cried, her hand going to her chest. “You are my child. I could never forget you or your sister. You are a part of me.”

“When you didn’t come…. We were told….” Chris swallowed this heart back down where it belonged, pushed all the questions and thoughts into the background so he could think coherently and began again. “I wasn’t sure you would remember. The prophecy,” he stopped when her smile turned into a scowl.

“Prophecies do not always speak clearly. They are riddles that we must muddle through and pray we come out on the other side relatively whole,” she spat. “Do not treat them as destiny set in stone.”

Apparently it was a sore subject with her, so Chris vowed he would not to bring it up. At least not today. “I’m sorry,” he apologized, his voice careful. Why was he so afraid of her? This was his mother. She would not harm him, would she? Still, there was a difference about her. A regal bearing that she never held before. The feel of age that was ancient, powerful, timeless, and tired. So very tired. The power he had felt a moment before spiked then just as quickly diminished. Grimacing, Kara placed her hand on her stomach, her eyes uncertain. A fleeting glimpse of the female he remembered peeked through the façade of the immortal giving him the courage to push to his feet and take a step forward, asking, “Is something wrong with the baby?”

“He is not happy that I came. He is,” her frowned deepened as she tried to find the right word. When she did, her eyes widen in surprise. “He is jealous of you. He feels your connection to me and how I feel about you. My love for you and he does not like it, so he is trying to chase you away by showing his own power.”

Chris smiled, the thought that she still loved him enough to voice it out loud warming him to his toes. “Why would he be afraid of me. He is, after all, my little brother.”

Kara blinked at him, the thought that her grown son and unborn child were siblings something she had never really given thought to. It wasn’t a pleasant thought since she knew this child was born of evil. The young man before her was not evil. Powerful, but far from evil.

“Biologically that may be true, but this baby is not your brother,” Kara corrected sadly. “He is our doom.”

“I don’t understand,” Chris frowned walking forward, stopping a few feet from his mother.

“It is hard to explain in the short time we have today, and I do not wish to waste it on something that is out of our hands,” Kara answered her smile returning. “You have questions for me.”

Blinking at the sudden change of subject, Chris supposed it shouldn’t have been a shock that she knew what he had wanted. She was his mother, after all, and there was that pesky link.

His face screwed up in a grimace, making Kara chuckle, Chris said in a voice that spoke of frustration and disgust at the same time, “About that. I have tried to figure out how to block Dad from hearing my thoughts, but he always seems to be able to break through my defenses. How do I keep him,” he looked at Kara’s amuse face and lost his thread of frustration, his smile ruining his indignation, “you from hearing everything I’m thinking? A man has to have some privacy.”

“A man,” Kara sighed, moving to close the distance between them. Reaching up she cupped her son’s face, her expression soft and full of love. “I have missed so much. I still see you as the thirteen year old boy that so valiantly stood between his father and a powerful sorcerer, defending his mother’s honor. Or what there was of it,” she murmured the last, her eyes downcast.

“I knew Aden would never hurt you, and if he had a choice he would have left you with us,” Chris said, putting his hand over hers on his cheek, bringing her eyes back to his. “I also knew the price if you did not obey Malphas. It was a price he did not understand, and one neither of us wanted to pay. As much as I hated it, I had to make him understand that we had to let you go.”

Kara’s smile returned along with a swelling of pride. “You were always so brave. Even as a small child, you would face whatever the universe threw at you with your head held high.” The sadness returned. “I wish I had been there to help you through those times. No child should have had to go through what you did or carry the knowledge you do. For that I am truly sorry.”

“It is not your fault, Mother,” Chris said, tears in his eyes.  Pushing his doubts away, he moved closer, wrapping his arms around her, holding her gently. After a moment of hesitation, Kara wrapped her arms around him, holding him fiercely. “I have never blamed you for what you had no control over,” he whispered. “And I have never stopped loving you. None of us have.” Kara stiffened in his arms. Frowning he took a step back. “What’s wrong?”

“Because of who I am, I have hurt your father deeply. I cannot believe that he can still love me after all I have done.”

“Then you believe wrong,” a deep familiar voice said into the silence.

Chris did not miss the flash of fear as his mother’s eyes shot to the man standing behind them. Closing his eyes and saying a little prayer that this would not all go sideways, Chris turned, stepping to one side of his mother, to see his father standing just inside the clearing. The uncertainty, the longing, in Brynn’s eyes brought tears to Chris’s. How do you make this reunion that should have never happen any easier, or less awkward? When Brynn’s eyes moved downwards, Chris knew the moment they saw his mother’s extended belly because they hardened into something he had never seen on his father’s face. Pure rage. Again the power spiked, but it had a different feel to it. Fear.

Placing her hands protectively over her belly, Kara whispered, “Brynn.”

Brynn’s eyes shot back to hers, his expression once again uncertain as he took a step towards her. The silence deepened until all that was heard was the song of a nearby bird.

“I…,” Kara began, her voice as uncertain as his expression. How do you greet your husband that you should not have remembered when one of your immortal soulmates was only a short distance away waiting for you and you carried the child of the other? Brynn answered her by striding across the meadow, taking her head in his hands and kissing her as if she were the air he needed to breathe.

The memories, the love of this male surge forward and with a small groan, Kara wrapped her arms as best as she could around him and kissed him back. Again the power surged as the baby inside Kara tried to break through the jumble of memories and emotions swirling around Kara and Brynn and break them apart. It wasn’t until Chris, who was stand a few steps back with his hand clasped behind him rocking back and forth from the balls of his feet to his heels, cleared his throat and said awkwardly, “Uh, guys. Son standing right here beginning to become nauseous because his parents are making out in front of him.” Nothing. “Yoo-hoo!” he called waving his hand close to their faces. “Hello? Going to puke here.”

Kara and Brynn broke apart laughing.

“Oh, thank the gods,” Chris sighed dramatically. “Thought I was going to hurl there for a moment. Seriously, get a room!”

Resting his forehead on Kara’s, his arms sliding down around her, Brynn smiled. “Not a bad idea,” he agreed huskily.

The power surged and the baby kicked, hard, making both Kara and Brynn wince. It also brought them back to the reality that there would be no room, no reunion. That there was not eons of time and distance between them. Brought home that Kara no long was Brynn’s alone. Stepping back enough that he could no longer hold her, Brynn’s eyes once again went to her belly.

“How long?” he asked, his voice flat, emotionless.

Her hand once again on her belly, Kara frowned. The warmth and happiness she felt a moment ago in Brynn’s arms vanishing as realty returned. “A month. Maybe less,” she answered.

 Brynn turned away, one hand over his mouth as he tried to digest that his wife was pregnant with another’s child. A fact he knew but was driven painfully home now that he saw the proof in person.

“Will you leave after the baby is born?” Chris asked. He had just reconnected with his mother. He did not want to lose her so soon.

“No,” Kara answered with a small smile, her hand reaching out to rub up and down Chris’s arm as she felt his anxiety. “I will stay here as long as I am hidden from those who wish to destroy this child, or take me.”

Brynn turned around, his expression one of disbelief. “This child was born of violence. Is part demon. How could you want to keep it?”

“I know what Aden and Tanis believe, and yes there was violence. What they don’t know is that the child is not Malphas’s. It is Caius’s.”

Brynn and Chris looked at each other in confusion. It was Chris that asked what Brynn could not voice. “We saw what Malphas did to you. He was in possession of Caius’s body at the time.”

“True, but it was still Caius’s body, and there was a time that he was able to fight to regain control. When the baby was conceived it was Caius, not Malphas, that was present. It was also when we completed the binding ritual.”

Brynn turned with a sound of disgust.

Kara’s anger spiked. “I may hate and distrust the prophecy we are bound to, but there is one binding truth that has always been. There are three entities that keep the universe from spinning into total chaos. I am one of them.” She took a step towards Brynn, moving her hand from Chris’s arm to his, bringing his attention to her. Her voice softening, she continued. “I cannot change who I am, what I was created for. What I wish I could change is how much I have hurt you. If I had a choice, I would have never left you.” She looked at Chris. “Either of you. Just once, I would have liked to watch my children grow up. Helped them through their life lessons.” She turned back to Brynn, “Grown old with you.” Tears began to course down her face. “Don’t ever think that because Tanis and Caius have been my immortal soulmates since time began that it means I love you any less. You are the father of my children, my mortal soulmate who had followed me throughout the ages, just as they have. You have been and always will be a part of me.”

Looking down at the hand on his arm, Brynn thought about her words. Somewhere deep inside him, some primal instinct, knew she was right. That they had been together far longer this this lifetime. Taking her hand in his, he brought it to his lips and held it there, his eyes closed as he tried to calm his racing heart. Kara was still his in a way, just not his alone.

“If that is true, then what about the part about you not remembering us once you met Caius or Tanis?” Chris asked.

“A safeguard, if you will. Something that helps me be able to complete my task without distractions until the next time we meet.”

“Why is it different now?” Brynn asked moving their hands to in between them, but not letting go of hers.

“Because there is a new player involved. One that does not belong in this timeline.”

“Malphas,” Chris said flatly.

Kara nodded. “I can’t explain it because we don’t know exactly how he came here, or what exactly he wants, but it feels as if this scenario has played out before. In a different place. In a different time.”

“According from what Grandmother has told me, you, Tanis and Caius fight a battle every two thousand years to keep the universe in balance. It would seem right to think this has all happened before,” Chris frowned.

“Grandmother? Selene has been here?” Kara said with a fair amount of suspicion.

“She comes from time to time to teach me how to use my powers. Or at least how not to destroy the fabric of the universe and everything in it,” he answered ruefully.

“I see,” Kara murmured angrily. She was about to call her mother so she could give her a piece of her mind about her meddling again when there was another power surge, this time from an outside source, hit her. One that brought Kara to her knees. Both Brynn and Chris cried out, jumping forward to catch her as she collapsed to the ground. It was a forceful reminder that she was to stay hidden. Inside her head, Tanis called to her, feeling her distress.

“That felt different,” Chris said his voice breathy. Apparently Kara was not the only one who had felt it.

Grimacing in pain, her eyes tightly shut, Kara nodded she agreed.

“What do you mean different,” Brynn asked looking between the two as he cradled Kara in his arms.

“Before it was the baby warning me off. This time it was more…powerful. Malevolent,” Chris shuddered. Looking down at his mother, he asked, “Was it Colin?”

Both Kara and Brynn’s eyes snapped to their son’s in alarm.

“What do you mean Colin?” Brynn demanded.

Frowning in confusion, Chris answered. “He and Anthony have been trying to break through the wards for the last two days. Haven’t you felt him?” he asked looking at his mother.

“No,” she whispered.

Suddenly there was another presence in the meadow, and it was not happy.

“What do you mean Colin is here?” Tanis demanded striding towards them.

“I thought you already knew?” Chris answered his confusion deepening.

“Our powers are restricted,” Tanis said in disgust as he dropped to his knees next to Kara. “Although I would have thought that bastard would have thought ahead and at least allowed us this one small advantage.”

The moment his fingertips touched Kara’s outstretched hand; everything began to spiral around her. Having both her mortal and immortal mate touching her at the same time should have never happened, and the universe did not take kindly to the unexpected. Kara stiffened. Powerful forces as old as time itself screamed in outrage as they engulfed Kara as a tsunami would engulf the beach it slammed into. They crashed against the bonds the males in her existence had weaved through her soul, threatening to tear them to shreds. Unwillingly, she took Tanis and Brynn with her on her spiraling decent into hell.

Kara wanted to keep falling, wanted to be engulfed by the darkness where the crushing pain could not reach her, but Tanis would not allow it, because if she went under so would he and they would both be lost. This was why they could never go back. Why it was forbidden to them. To be in the same place as two soul mates would tear them apart from the inside out. Malphas did not understand the danger had he put them in, or his unborn child, because he was not of this reality.

Don’t you dare leave me! Tanis ordered panic stricken.

Let me go, Kara begged weakly.

NO! Brynn cried. Not again.

If you don’t we will all drown. Let go.

Kara, please. Don’t ask me to do this, Tanis pleaded with her.

The pain and terror she felt coming from him tore a fresh hole in her already shredded heart. She did not want to leave him. It was too soon, but she also needed to disappear into the darkness. The pain was too much for her to bear.

Reluctantly, knowing it was the only way to stop the pain yet hating every second of it, Brynn allowed his grip on Kara slip away.

Let go, she urged Tanis gently.

Tanis still hesitated, unsure if it was the right thing do to. Once together they had never been totally separated until death. This was not death but a separation from the source of her pain. Kara’s body would still be living, but her spirit would be somewhere away from the pain, and he was not sure he could pull her back once she was gone. She begged him once more to release her. As Brynn had done, Tanis slowly released his grip on her spirit and allowed her to slip away, feeling as if half of him were being ripped away cell by cell.

When he became aware of his surroundings he was on his hands and knees gasping. Kara lay on her back in the grass unconscious. Brynn was lying next to her staring at the blue sky gasping for air.

“What…happened?” he asked.

“You…me…all of us here. Together,” Tanis spat. “None of this should be happening!”

“Mom?” Chris whispered.

Tanis looked up at the boy’s terrified eyes, his own fear mirrored in them.

“She is breathing but I…I can’t feel her. It’s as if she is gone.”

Tanis was at her side in an instant, brushing the hair from her face. It was small consolation when he felt the weak pulse on her wrist, because like Chris had said, he could not feel her.

“Nooooo,” he groaned burying his face on her chest.

“What’s wrong?” Brynn asked pushing himself up so he was sitting. “What is wrong!” he demanded when no one would answer him. He saw the grief Tanis was in, the terror in his son’s eyes, but most of all he too could no longer feel Kara’s presence. It was as if the void in his heart had open into a chasm.

“It was too much for her,” Chris answered his voice shaking, tears running down his face. “Having you both here. It’s never happened before so no one knew what would happen.”

“Where is she?” Brynn whispered staring down at Kara’s peaceful expression.

“I’m not sure,” Chris choked.

“We have to bring her back.” Tanis’s voice hoarse with the strain of staying conscious. “We have to find her and bring her back.”

“How?” Brynn asked. This was beyond him and his limited power.

“I don’t know,” Tanis whispered staring at Kara’s pale face. He felt so lost without her. It was hard to think, to feel, to breathe.

Brynn wasn’t fairing much better. When he had felt Kara out here with Chris, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to come or not. But the pull had finally been too much. To know she was so close and not hold her in his arms was becoming too painful. So he gave in to the pull and followed his son’s footsteps. Holding Kara, feeling her melt into him, kiss him back, was a heaven he thought he would never experience again. Then Chris had mentioned the male that had made their lives a living hell for so long and Tanis had appeared. When the excruciating pain began he could barely think straight. Now she was gone, the black abyss she had slipped into to loomed before him and it took everything thing he had not to follow her.

“We should move her inside,” Tanis rasped.

“Your place is closer,” Brynn said moving to his knees with more effort than it really should have taken.

Moving to his feet, Tanis tried to pick Kara up, but it was as if his strength had left with her. With a deep breath, Brynn scooped Kara into his arms, cradling her gently and with Chris’s help pushed to his feet. Taking a moment to enjoy the feel of her once again this close, he turned his attention to Tanis who, also with Chris’s help, stumbled to his feet. There was a mixture of emotions flitting across the man’s face. Brynn understood that feeling all too well. The confusion of anger and desolation as they warred with each other. It seemed like too many times he had watched either Aden or Anthony take his wife away from him. However, Brynn was not taking Kara away, he was going to help this man – his wife’s bond mate from eons past and present – find her and bring her back to them. Then they would figure out where they would go from here.

“The weakness will pass,” Brynn said. “The pain….”

“I have lost her more times than you can comprehend, mortal. I know it will pass,” Tanis snapped pushing Chris’s helping hands away.

“Maybe,” Brynn said, his eyes and voice still showing his sorrow. “But I doubt you have had her ripped from you so completely it was as if you have lost half of yourself.”

Tanis froze then looked at Brynn more closely. No, he had not lost her this completely because their spirits were never very far apart no matter how far physically they were. But this time he felt…nothing.

“Time for this later,” Chris reminded. The two men looked at the young man. “We need to move her inside where it is safer and contact one more to help us bring her home.”

“Who are you talking about?” Tanis asked.

“Aden,” Chris said plainly.

“Never!” Tanis hissed as at the same time Brynn snarled, “No!”

“He can help us,” Chris growled. “He’s connected to Mom, just like you and Dad are….”

“He will not touch her!” Tanis snarled. “I will talk about it no more,” he snapped when Chris opened his mouth to protest.

“Enough Chris. The subject is closed,” Brynn added firmly as he walked past him towards the farmhouse.

Snapping his mouth shut, Chris looked between Tanis, who was glaring at him to his father’s receding back. Why wouldn’t they see reason? If they were to bring his mother back and survive what was to come, they needed all the help they could get.

“Fine,” Chris snapped after a moment. If they would not listen to reason, then he would take matters into his own hands. First he would see his mother was settled, then he would figure out how to bring Aden here himself.

Chapter 25
Chapter 27

Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes

Broken Promises – Chapter 25

Chapter 25

There are advantages and disadvantages of living as long as time itself. You are able to watch as each planet it’s born, as it grows, matures, dies. Watch as the creatures on those select few who contain life evolve, as civilizations rise and fall only to pick themselves up to rise again a little stronger, and maybe a little wiser. Or turn into ash and dust. No one left to wonder what happened, no one left to mourn. Some of it still left wonder in his heart. A joy of life and love and the way the universe kept spinning on and on, no matter what the heavens threw at it. Others grew tiresome. The same mistakes being made over and over, never learning what it meant to just be.

What never grew old was watching the love of his existence enjoy each and every moment of her life. At least the quiet times. There had been very little to enjoy in this lifetime. Until now.

Tanis leaned his shoulder against the post of the wrap around deck, his arms crossed, he watched Kara walk around the backyard tending the flower beds humming to herself. He wished this peace could last. Unfortunately, it was only a respite from the hell they had been living these last six years. Not that there hadn’t been hard lives before. Nothing was ever sunshine and smiles all the time. If there weren’t hardships then one would never learn how to survive, how to overcome obstacles and move on. This time, though…. As he looked down at the newly stained stairs, a weariness that was bone dee[ washed over him. This time there had been no relief from the horrors and pain of being owned by a demon brought. Even in this seemingly pristine, beautiful, peaceful place Kara used to call home there really was no relief, because not more than a mile away was her mortal family, and every moment of every day they called to her. Begging her to come home. Not consciously of course. Tanis knew deep in his heart that they would never hurt her that way. But subconsciously, at that molecular level that bound a family together, the call was still there. What Tanis feared was she would answer that call and never return to him. Unfortunately, her mortal family were not the only ones calling to her.

Aden.

Tanis knew the boy had been there for Kara when she had no one. Knew from Kara that the binding of their souls the first time was so unexpected, so quick, that neither of them had time to realize what was happening until it was done. Six years, and three of those were spent far apart from each other. The pain must have been excruciating. Even though he knew their separation now was causing her pain, pain he was moderating as best he could, he did not want Aden here, reminding her that there was someone else in her life. Someone she loved just as much as she loved Tanis.

It was the one thing he and Caius, or the demon, were in agreement on. Aden must not be allowed to finish the ritual with Kara. The power those two radiated just standing next to each other without it was staggering. If they finished it….

Closing his eyes, Tanis took a deep breath and released it slowly. Opening them, they followed Kara once more. He knew power was only a small part of the reason they kept them apart. Even though Tanis had somewhat relaxed around her and Aden, allowed Aden to comfort her when he could not, understood that Aden was not trying to take her from him, Tanis was still jealous. He knew it was not a good emotion, but he could not help it. Especially after they had come home and found her tied Malphas’s bed, barely conscious, realizing what Malphas had done to her while they were away unable to help her. Especially when only Aden had….

Kara stood up, the roundness of her bulging belly making Tanis cringe. Reminding him that neither of them had been there when she needed them most. Images and the pain of that week still haunted his dreams. He did his best to hide it from her, but she knew him to well. And there was their link. The one that made it almost impossible to keep secrets from each other. Especially when emotions ran high. He was amazed by how well she was coping. With help from Aden, which Tanis still was unhappy about, she had been able to push the horror aside and concentrate on the child inside her instead. Tanis offered to terminate the pregnancy, but Kara had adamantly refused. She told him the baby was an innocent and she would not harm another innocent. Tanis did not bring it up again because he knew how she felt. He was tired of the torturing and killing too. During this time away, he hoped they could gain enough strength to finally break free of Malphas.

Preferably without Aden.

Although there was another worry. Something Tanis had mixed feelings about. It was only a matter of time before the Elders found them and forced the issue of destroying the abomination she carried. While he would be happy that the thing was gone, his fear was what Kara would do when that time came. Knowing her, she would fight to keep her child with everything she had. Since their existence was built around rebirth, Tanis had no doubts the Elders would not think twice of killing her to get to the child. After all, they would only be reborn two thousand years later to start the cycle all over again. The last thing Tanis wanted was to watch her die in his arms again.

It was that thought that confused him the most when it came to what Caius had done. Deep down, that selfish part of Tanis understood, even secretly prayed that whatever deal Caius had made with Malphas to keep the pain of watching Kara die from happening again would work. It was the cost that concerned him. An entire universe of innocent and not so innocent beings for their happiness. The price seemed far too high.

“You worry about things that are out of our control,” Kara frowned as she walked up to the front porch, stopping at the edge of the bottom stair to gaze up at him.

The post that Tanis was leaning against was at the top of a set of four stairs that held up the roof to a wraparound porch of the large house they currently resided in. Being no stranger to other cultures, he could admire the architecture of the two story farmhouse. It was always amazing how some planets could be so different, while others were almost identical. Take for instance the planet they were on now, Krynn, was very similar to the planet Kara had been born and raised on she called Earth. The way they lived, the buildings, the way people dressed, what they ate, the air they breathed, their speech. Yet there were certain things that were very different. Such as what they used for fuel, electricity. The deities they worshiped, some of the cultures and how they interacted. In some ways, Krynn was ahead of Earth when it came to living in harmony with each other. Tanis still had not figured out exactly how they attained their level of technology that worked in harmony with the land, not against it. Frowning, he figured he had plenty of time to figure it out.

The big difference between the two planets was that most of the creatures on Earth refused to see the magic in their world, while those of Krynn embraced it. Then again, neither planet had the metal or technology that this house now held.

In order to keep Kara and his child as safe as possible, Malpas had made sure the ordinary wooden farmhouse was re-enforced with the same metal that the starship had been made of. This way, if unseen forces that had their technology tried to break into the house they would have a harder time of it. He had also put in food replicators, lights that could be turned on and off with voice, and door and window coverings that would slam shut at a touch of a button, making the house a fortress. All the precautions made Tanis nervous. With their powers bound, there was very little they could do to protect themselves if someone decided to come for them. Supposable there were wards surrounding a large area to keep undesirables out, like Colin and his son. So aside from the elders, who else posed a danger to them? Hopefully it was all for nothing and they could live here in peace for a long while.

Soft fingers brushed his cheek, bringing him out of his thoughts. Startling, he turned to see Kara had moved up the stairs to stand next to him, her eyebrows scrunching with her frown. “What has you so worried you cannot keep in the here and now?”

“Nothing. Everything,” Tanis sighed. Turning so his back now rested on the post, he pulled Kara against him, reveling in the feel of her warmth in his arms. “The Elders will eventually find out about the child and they will come. I am afraid of what they will do to restore the balance.”

“I will not allow them to destroy this child,” Kara vowed pulling from his arms so she could look Tanis in the eyes. The determination in hers frightened him.

“I know, and that is what frightens me most,” Tanis responded gently, reaching out to take her hand in his. Looking down at them, one holding hers while the other traced back and forth across the back of hers. After a moment, he looked back into her eyes. “I will not lose you because of a child that is not ours. Kara, please,” he interrupted when her mouth opened and she took a breath to argue. “Hear me out.” Clamping her mouth shut in a straight unhappy line, she stayed quiet. Looking back down at their hands, Tanis took a moment to collect his thoughts. “I know all life is precious, even those of the demon realm. Each creature serves a purpose to keep the checks and balances in place.” He looked back up at her. “Have you considered that Malphas is not even from this universe. That he, somehow, broke through some barrier we did not even know existed between not realms, but realities?”

Kara’s frown returned, her eyes going distant as she thought over his words. “I have seen a room with the walls lined with shelves filled with glass orbs, all swirling with different colors.” She looked at Tanis, her confusion clearly written on her face. “I know this room, but I don’t know how I know it. All I know is there is something wrong within it, I just can’t see what.” She focused back on Tanis. “I feel as if we have been here before. Not on this world, or even in this reality, but some place…similar. It’s hard to explain.”

“Who is ‘we’?” Tanis frowned.

“You, Caius, Aden,” she hesitated, trying to remember what else she had seen in her dreams. Shaking her head in frustration, she closed her eyes, putting her hand to her forehead. “I can’t remember. All I know is the four of us have been together before.” She looked at Tanis, her eyes imploring him to finally believe her. “It’s always been the four of us,” she whispered.

His brow furrowed; Tanis fought to keep his temper. Kara’s insistence that Aden belonged with them, that he was a part of the balance of the universe was wearing. Yet, at the same time he knew she would not keep pushing the subject unless she absolutely believed what she said was true. Sighing, he reached out and gently pulled her back into his arms.

“I don’t want to fight, Kara. The day is beautiful, and I want to enjoy this peace while we have it,” he said kissing her hair.

Wrapping her arms around him, Kara relaxed into his embrace. “I don’t want to fight either,” she sighed. They stood like that, each enjoying the others nearness without the constant threat of Malphas coming upon them with some new horror.

Something in Kara’s mood shifted slightly. Another worry. No. More of a longing that had tormented her since they arrived on this planet. With mixed feelings, Tanis knew what it was that called to her. Although he had loved his wife from his home world, their relationship had been much shorter than Kara’s and Brynn’s, and much less traumatic. The horrors Kara faced before they had been reunited cemented a much stronger bond between them then Tanis was comfortable with. He knew his jealousy was unfounded because he knew in this instance Brynn was a part of the equation, but Brynn’s role was completed and now Kara was his. Tanis had no doubt this was why they were here and not on his own home planet. That constant anxiety of a choice that should never have to be made. Malphas seemed to relish it more when Kara was the one who suffered.

“What are you thinking?” he murmured even though he could easily read her thoughts.

Kara sighed, “I was wondering why Chris has not come to see me.”

“Maybe…Brynn,” he had a hard time saying his name without growling, “will not allow him. It has been six years. He may not even remember you.”

“He remembers,” Kara whispered. “He’s afraid it will hurt me. Hurt Brynn. Brynn was in a very dark place for a long time. Chris is afraid if he comes to see me it will put his father back there.” Kara hesitated for a moment; her eyebrows knitted together in a deep frown. She could feel the edge Brynn was balancing precariously on. Feel that, because she was there, it would take only one small push to send him over.

“Maybe you should go to them” Tanis suggest lightly, while at the same time the thought of her with them and the possible consequences worried him.

Kara could feel he was torn. Feel that he was afraid if she went to her mortal family that she may not come back.

“You may find that it isn’t as bad as you think. In fact, Chris is out in the field right now,” he finished.

Kara stepped back to look at Tanis. There was a small smile on his lips, but it did not reach his eyes. There was anxiety and a little fear in them. Kara cupped his face with her hands, looking into his eyes as she spoke.

“I love you,” she said putting as much emotion as she could into her words so he would believe her. “Nothing will ever change that.”

Tanis sighed, resting his forehead on hers. He knew she told him the truth, felt it from her, but it did not erase the uneasiness that once she saw Brynn again, she might decide the love she had for the father of her children was stronger.

“We’ve never gone back before Kara. We don’t know what will happen. On one hand, I want you to see your children. I can feel your need to do so. On the other….”

“You are afraid of what will happen when I see my husband,” Kara answered quietly. She felt Tanis stiffen at her use of the word husband. Kara knew if the roles were reversed she would feel the same way. Unsure, frighten, jealous. “I will not go if you do not want me to,” Kara assured him. “I will not do anything to cause you pain.”

“Everything is so different this time. So many rules have been broken. Too many people are involved. I fear it will come to no good.” He looked Kara in the eyes as he held her face gently in his hands. “This time I fear I will lose you forever,” his voice soft and full of anguish.

“I’m not going anywhere without you,” Kara swore tears escaping down her cheeks.

Tanis touched his forehead to hers. He knew she meant what she said, but like so many other times their life was not their own, and if the Gods found them and sought to destroy the child, he was afraid he would lose Kara in the process.

A feather light touch flitted across his mind. Knowing who it was he looked towards the field beyond the trees.

“Your son is waiting for you.”

“I know,” Kara sighed moving so her arms wrapped around him again. Tanis encircled his arms around her, holding her tightly to him for a moment before backing away.

“Go see him,” he urged brushing an errant lock of hair behind her ear.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes,” he smiled. “He’s curious. He wants to know if what he has seen in his mind is the same with his eyes.” Tanis frowned as his eyes went back to the field. “He has seen much, I’m afraid.”

Kara shivered. This was one of the reasons she hesitated in meeting with Chris. Even though it was not Aden’s intention, Chris had seen everything he had shown Brynn. Would Chris understand, or would he think her weak and hate her?

“I don’t think so,” Tanis answered her thoughts. “He is wise beyond his years. He understands the war we have been waging and the causalities of that war. He doesn’t judge us. Go. Besides, I need to check in with our master,” he said the last word with disgust. “If you are not here then he cannot demand to see you.”

“I don’t know why he has us bother,” Kara spat. “He knows we can’t leave here. I can’t leave here,” she whispered the last.

For a moment she was lost in her memories of what seemed like another lifetime. Her life before she was reunited with Tanis. One she would not dare return to. “There are others out there who are just as dangerous, just as deadly, and who would stop at nothing to find me. Who know how to control me. I don’t wish to fall into their hands again.” Her anger had melted to fear as she spoke. “Especially when Malphas has bound me so tightly. I dare not defend myself for fear what it will do to the child.”

“Malphas does not want you in Colin’s hands any more than I do,” Tanis reminded.

Kara gave an involuntary shudder. “I’m not as sure of that as you are. There is so much hate, so much malice within him. His only goal is to punish those who have wronged him, and we are his tools. It was Malphas’s idea we come here. Caius wanted to keep me with him where he could protect me.”

“How do you know this?”

“I could see it in his eyes when we left him,” Kara answered softly. The pain in Caius’s eyes as the demon held him in place, forcing him to watch her being taken from him was something Kara would not soon forget. “Just for a moment, the demon allowed Caius to peek through. As if to torment him with the knowledge that I was being taken from him.”

“He chose to invite that bastard into himself. He brought this on all of us,” Tanis reminded angrily.

“Did he?” Kara asked looking up at him with a frown. “I think this game we are forced to play goes back much longer than you or I. Remember, it is Malphas who found Caius, not the other way around. There is something else behind the demon’s cruelty. Some unspoken vengeance.” She looked out at the view before them, towards where she knew her son was waiting for her.

Tanis watched the emotions play across Kara’s face. Frowning, he decided maybe it was time to stop being angry with Caius and find out exactly what was going on. The trick was to make sure the demon did not realize what he was doing. The last thing Tanis wanted to do was leave Kara defenseless because he pried too deeply into the forbidden.

“No more talk of demons or sadness. Go reunite with your son. He grows troubled because you don’t come.”

Tanis gave Kara a gently lingering kiss before disappearing into the house.

Kara stared at the empty doorway for a moment before turning and slowly walking down the stairs. She did want to see her son, but, like Tanis, she feared what the consequences might be in doing so. Taking a deep breath, she decided there was not much else she could do to make matters any worse. Optimism is not always your friend.

Chapter 24
Chapter 26

Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes

Broken Promises – Chapter 24

Chapter 24

Taking deep breaths, Brynn put his elbows on his knees and pushed his hair back with both hands as he tried to get a grip on what was reality and what were dreams.

All he saw, felt, had been so real. Real enough that he had to fight to hold back the tears as the emptiness in his chest threaten to engulf him. With great effort, he clawed his way up the slippery slope that lead into the darkness. An empty void he had lived in because living had been too painful. He refused to go back there and leave his children without a parent again. But if the pain was this real, then the dream must have been real too. A vision. Right?

Was Kara really coming home?

Slowly climbing out of bed, Brynn walked to the window that faced east where Aden said Kara was would be living soon. Closing his eyes, he searched for her as he had done many times in the last six years. As before he felt nothing. The chasm opened wider, darkness reaching for him. Promising an end to the pain. Of peace. So safe. So tempting. A lie.

Placing his hands on either side of the window, Brynn gently rested his forehead on the cool glass between them, holding onto the light with everything he had. There would be no peace until Kara once more stood by his side. Maybe what he thought was a vision had only been a dream. Just his fantasies making themselves known.

“Dad?” a very concerned, very real, voice quietly called. “Are you all right?”

So this was reality. Good to know. At the same time, Brynn cringed.

His children had a very unique power. They could ride other’s dreams. Where Chris had gain control of when and where, if the emotions of the dreamer was strong enough and their connection close, like father and son, Chris could be sucked in. Brynn prayed that had not been the case this time. He could barely digest what he had seen, he could not even imagine what those images would do to their son if he had seen them.

 “A bit early for you to be up on a Saturday morning, isn’t it?” Brynn asked putting a smile on his face as he turned towards his son.

Chris watched his father try to hide the turmoil he knew was inside him as he smiled his ‘everything is not all right, but I’m going to put up a good front’ smile. To add to the ‘my heart hasn’t just been ripped out of my chest again’ illusion, he began to haphazardly pull the blankets over the bed, acting as if nothing was wrong. Chris knew better. His father thought he hid it well, but the pain of losing Chris’s mother was always just under the surface. Having seen what Aden had shown his father, it was amazing his father was not drowning in his sorrow. Chris was having a hard enough time holding it together, too.

“What does Aden gain by showing you what she has been through?” Chris asked quietly, his eyes never leaving his father. When Brynn missed the hook he was hanging his shirt on, Chris knew for certain that he had not imagined Aden’s presences in the house. His mother was coming home.

Brynn rested his hand on the hook his shirt was on and hung his head, wishing for once he could keep a secret from his son.

Swallowing hard, Chris walked further into the room. “Once I realized what was going on, I shielded Jamie from the images. She’ll know something is wrong, but she won’t know why unless you tell her.”

Brynn smiled. “Since when can you hide anything from your sister?” Taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly, he finished getting ready for the day. Movement of any kind was better than the images he could not banish from his mind.

“When does Mom arrive?” Chris asked trying to feel excited about his mother finally coming home but unable to find any emotion aside from dread. Nothing good would come of any of this.

Brynn hesitated, trying to find the right words to explain to his son that his mother might not even know him. He turned towards Chris. “Chris, you have to understand. This prophecy,” his voice was bitter when he said that word. He always believed that one was in control of their destiny. That they could choose who they were, what they would be. Now, he was not so sure. Stamping down his anger, he started over. “Aden explained that once she and the others meet, the life they knew, their feelings and memories, would disappear. As if we never existed.”

“I heard what Aden said, Dad, and even if you don’t I trust him, I do. Mom will remember us,” Chris reminded. “We are a part of her. No force in the universe can erase that bond completely. It will just take time.” He hesitated for a moment, watching his father finish his morning routine of straightening the bed and tiding up his room. His father had had enough shocks for one day, so Chris was not sure if he should continue with what he knew or not. Deciding more information was better than not enough, he took a deep breath as he sat down on the bed. “You know, this has never happened before. One of the chosen coming back to their home planet.”

“How do you know that?” Brynn asked pulling a t-shirt from a dresser drawer. Chris gave him an exasperated look. How did he know anything? That was a question not even the gods knew the answer to. “Nevermind,” Brynn smiled closing the drawer. “So, what do you think will happen?”

“No one knows. Like I said, it’s never happened before. I am anxious to meet this Tanis though. Living as long as they have, the stories he could tell.”

Brynn’s expression darkened at the mention of Tanis’s name. Prophecy or no, preordained or not, this man took Kara from him. Becoming friends was not high on his priority list. Grabbing a pair of socks from the top drawer, he closed it a bit too sharply than sat on the bed next to Chris, pulling his socks on angrily.

Frowning, Chris moved off the bed to kneel in front of his father, who looked up at him in surprise.

“No matter what happens or how this plays out, we will get through this,” Chris promised, his quiet voice fervent with his conviction. “Together.  Like we always do.”

Smiling, Brynn wrapped his hand around the back of his son’s neck and pulled him forward until their foreheads touched.

“When did you become the adult?” he joked.

“I have my moments,” Chris smiled.

Kissing his forehead, Brynn let go of Chris and sat back. Time for self-doubt later. Now he needed to gather what strength he had and tell the rest of the family that their lives were about to be turned upside down. Again.

*    *    *

“And you believe him?” Gavin asked as he reached for the butter. As the oldest, Gavin had inherited the farm and moved in with his wife Mary Jo and their two daughters, Emma and Bridgett, after Uncle Cas had passed the year before. Another void that would be forever empty.

“You didn’t see the look in his eyes,” Brynn answered quietly, staring at his plate but not seeing it or the food he had hardly touched. His mind was seeing the dead defeated look in Kara’s eyes. Her pale skin. Her screams.

“I don’t understand. If she can’t remember us, then why return her here? It doesn’t make sense,” Delia frowned.

“They were never supposed to return to their families,” Chris explained. “It would be too painful for all involved, but by inviting the demon inside Caius has changed the rules. And there is the baby…,” he added with a shrug before taking another bite of his eggs. It was an important part of the story that needed to be told. If his father wanted to ignore the elephant in the room, then he would have to point it out.

Brynn closed his eyes, groaning inwardly. He had purposely left out the part about the baby, not wanting the rest of them to know the darker side of why Kara was returning. He opened his eyes to see Delia, Gavin and Mary Jo staring wide-eyed at him.

“Chris, maybe you should…,” Brynn started, knowing he would now have to explain it to his cousins but not wanting to do it in front of the younger kids.

“I’m not a child anymore, Dad,” Chris interrupted, his voice sad as he looked at his father, who wouldn’t meet his son’s eyes. “I know what the demon forced Mom to do. I saw everything very clearly. Including the images your mind refused to see in the beginning.”

 Brynn looked at him in horror. “No!” he whispered hoarsely.

“What did you see?” Gavin asked looking from Brynn’s horror stricken face to Chris’s ill expression and back.

“I also know one of the reasons he is hiding Mom here is because of the wards,” Chris continued ignoring his uncle’s question. There were enough people living with the horrors of his mother’s life. No need to add more. “It will keep her hidden from everyone, including the gods that they answer to. If they find out there is a child, they will do everything in their power to destroy it. Because Mom thinks she’s pregnant with Tanis’s child, someone she loves, that will in turn destroy her.”

There was a stunned silence. The way Chris had put into words what the danger was was so clinical it was hard to believe he was talking about his own mother. With a glance at each other that said they were in agreement, Mary Jo and Delia started to round up the younger kids and herded them outside. Only Jamie seemed to know what Chris’s words meant. It was in her eyes. That sad knowing that even though she was powerful in her own right, knew what was happening, there was nothing she could do to stop it. So to make the grown-ups more comfortable, she allowed herself to be herded outside with the younger kids. A few minutes later Delia came back in and sat down.

“And if they do find Kara?” Gavin asked unsure if any of them wanted to know the answer?

“It’s not a matter of if, but when they find her. And it won’t matter how old the child is or how much she tries to fight them. They will take it from her,” Chris answered looking at his uncle.

“And Kara?” Delia asked, her voice a soft whisper. “What will they do to her?’

Chris looked at his aunt for a few moments, gauging how he should answer her question. Out of everyone here, only he and his father understood his mother curse and how easily it could be used against her. To be able to feel what others felt. Have those feelings intertwined with yours, enhancing or confusing your own feelings. Have your body respond to another’s touch no matter how unwanted or repulsive. Used to gain an advantage over her, or to punish her.

There were times Chris cursed his own power. Cursed the knowledge that came with it. His whole life, the people who lived in their small community considered him strange, a freak, and it was the same with his sister. Where powers, or magic as some liked to call it, was not unusual on their planet, the kind of magic they wielded was unheard of. The ability to see into other’s minds, predict what the future held. To ride other’s dreams where their deepest darkest desires were hidden. Before he was old enough to know what he was seeing, he had blurted out more than once peoples’ deepest secrets he had learned by accidentally falling into their dreams. Not a stranger to nightmares concerning his mother, he was just happy he had realized what was going on and been able to shield Jamie from the worst of what Aden had shown his father. She did not need to know the horrors their mother went through. Even if she didn’t remember her.

“Chris?” he heard his father’s concerned voice breaking through his thoughts. It took him a moment to focus on him and realize he must have been lost in his thoughts for a while. “Are you all right?” Brynn asked putting his hand on his son’s shoulder as he looked at him with concern.

“I’m sorry,” Chris smiled. A smile that did not reach his eyes. “What was the question?”

“What will happen to your mother if these Gods find her?” Brynn asked dropping his hand.

“I don’t know. Something is different and they are afraid of what it all means. What it could do to the very fabric of the universe,” he answered gravely.

They were silent for a while, each lost in their own thoughts. If it hadn’t been for their past dealings with things unnatural they would not have been able to believe anything they had just been told. But they had. There was one more chilling thought that ran through their minds. With Kara here, it would only be a matter of time before Colin and Anthony realized she was no longer with Caius where she was better protected. Then things would get very interesting.

“Anything we decide now is mute. When Kara returns,” Brynn hesitated, swallowing down the overabundance of butterflies the thought of Kara coming home brought on. Standing, his chair screeching loudly along the hardwood floor, he reached for Chris’s empty plate. “When she returns we will see what happens and go from there.”

Gavin, Delia and Chris looked from Brynn, who had turned and headed for the sink, to each other. They knew Brynn was right. It was just the waiting for that time to come would seem long and torturous.

“You know,” Gavin said also standing with his plate in his hand. It was a signal for the others to begin clearing the table. “I could use some help with the tractor, Chris.” Winking at Delia who smiled she understood what he was doing back.

“Is it the same problem we fixed last time?” Chris asked frowning. They both reached the counter at the same time, placing their dishes on the counter next to the sink. “I thought we fixed that.”

“No. So far that one is holding. Come on and I’ll show you. This is the…,” Gavin’s voice disappeared as he and Chris walked outside, the door softly clicking shut behind them.

Smiling and shaking her head in exasperation, Delia grabbed some dishes and headed for the sink as Brynn turned on the water.

Unwillingly, Brynn’s eyes strayed out the window in the direction of where the house his wife would soon be living in with another man she supposedly loved more than him. She would be within walking distance physically, but mentally she may not know who he or their children were. Would not remember how much he loved her, needed her. How not having her with him left a chasm in his chest that tried to swallow him whole.

Closing his eyes, Brynn tried to block out the pain that threaten to overwhelm him. Placing his hands on the counter his arms straight, he bowed his head. Shaking with the effort to keep his tears under control, he slowly closed his hands into fists. He would not sink into the darkness! Damn it! A gentle hand slid onto his arm. He did not look up. He couldn’t. If he did the pain would overtake him.

“Brynn?” Delia’s concerned voice whispered.

He refused to answer her, afraid his voice would break and then he would break too.

“Oh honey,” she crooned sliding her arm around his shoulder as she put her head against his. “She will remember. I don’t think anyone could forget the kind of love you two shared.”

“That’s just it,” Brynn croaked. He forced himself to look into Delia’s eyes. She blinked at the pain she saw. “Even if she does it won’t matter. You didn’t see what I saw. Felt what I felt when she looked into his eyes. She belongs to Tanis now. There is no turning back from that kind of bond.” Taking a shuddering breath, he closed his eyes and turned his head away. Opening them, he once again stared at the window. “There is more,” he whispered. “I was not the only one she was ripped from.”

“What do you…?” Delia stopped in mid-sentence when she realized what Brynn was trying to say, her eyes widening in shock. “Aden,” she finished.

Brynn nodded. “But after all the pain, after the numbing loss of having her ripped from us caused, it was Aden she chose to bind herself to again. So you see,” he turned eyes to Delia that held so much anguish mixed with anger that Delia could barely hold his stare. “There is no room left for me.”

“I can’t believe that. You forget what you two had, still have, and a mother does not forget her children,” Delia said angrily.

Brynn looked back out the window not wanting to have any reason to hope. It would hurt too much when that hope was crushed by reality.

“You’ll see,” Delia added with confidence, her voice less angry. “Once she sees you and the kids, it will all come back.”

“But will it be enough?” Brynn whispered looking back at his cousin.

All she could do was stare back, unsure of the answer herself.

Chapter 23
Chapter 25

Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes

Broken Promises – Chapter 23

Chapter 23

Voices in the dark. One filled with anger, the other terror. Both too far away to understand clearly. Pushing through the darkness, Brynn tried to find the voices. There was something familiar about the one who was afraid. A female’s voice that haunted his dreams, fleeting as a distance memory. Memories cloaked in darkness.

Brynn was no stranger to darkness. He had slipped in and out of that darkness for many years, trying to hide from the pain. Trying to forget…her. Unfortunately, the light never lets the darkness rest, and he was forced to surface and remember that he was not the only one who had lost someone vital to their existence. That he did have something to live for. His children. Now he fought every day to stay in the light. Some days it was harder than others, and some nights when the nightmares haunted his dreams damn near impossible. Like tonight….

“How much more must you suffer before you heed my wishes?”

“You ask the impossible.”

“I only ask for what is mine!”

“What is yours? What you ask for has never been yours because it belongs to Aden therefore I cannot give it to you!”

Kara!

Brynn’s excitement that she was so close slipped away as he realized it was her voice that was fill with terror. Frowning, Brynn hurried closer. Who was Kara fighting with that would fill her with so much fear? Only two people came to mind and he did not want her near either one of them.

“Maybe I have been too lenient with you. Maybe I should take a page from your past, from before I found you and you begged me to save you from the bastards that abused you. Maybe I should and give you to one of my garrisons for a few hours. Remind Aden how the touch of a man, any man, fills you with hunger and lust. Then maybe he will see you for the worthless whore you are and sever your bond as I have commanded!”

Brynn froze in his tracks. What was he talking about? He could mean what those words suggested. He wouldn’t dare….

“No,” Kara breathed. “Please, my lord. I beg of you. Don’t do this! We cannot give you what you want.”

Shapes began to take form. Misty, watery, showing Kara’s face full of terror as she pleaded for mercy before drifting away. Another face, one he had never seen, old, scarred with age, twisted in fury. The more Brynn tried to see the images the quicker they drifted away, only to become suddenly crystal clear.

“It’s the ‘we’ in that sentence that displeases me,” the ancient man snarled slowly rising off his throne, his eyes narrowed on Kara with rage. “There should be no we!” He began descending the steps of the dais, one after one, his voice raising as his rage did. “There should only be Aden and then you. You do not belong to him. You belong to ME!” he roared.

The form slipped away into mist only to reform to the left of Brynn with the ancient man’s lips close to Kara’s ears, his voice a hoarse whisper. Kara stood, her body trembling, the color draining from her face, her lips quivering as tears streamed down her cheeks.

“Break the bond, or so help me gods I will carry out my threat,” he hissed.

The movement was so slight that Brynn barely saw it, but the expression on Kara’s face was enough. She would not obey this man’s command. She would not break her bond with Aden.

“Very well,” the man said coldly.

Brynn’s worst fears had come to life. That what he had learned six years ago and refused to believe was true. That Kara did love Aden. Somehow it was far worse than the horror the ancient man threatened to force on her.

Gasping for air, he tried to break the nightmare, but something outside of himself would not let him go. Something…or someone, wanted him to see. Desperately looking around the darkness for an escape, half formed images danced before his eyes. Kara’s screams, men’s laughter, taunts, moans of pleasure, the sharp sound of leather against skin, of skin against skin. The sounds told a story the eyes refused to see and the mind refused to acknowledge.

Then there was silence.

His heart racing, Brynn realized he had fallen to his knees, his hands over his ears trying to block what he was hearing. Even so, the sudden silence left his ears ringing.

Before him, a picture appeared of a strange man on hands and knees looking up with loathing at the ancient man who stood on the dais. Somehow he knew the younger one was named Tanis and the older one was Caius.

“You bastard!” Tanis snarled.

There was a collective gasp throughout the room.

“Hello, brother,” Caius, who Brynn realized must be the emperor Kara had talked about sneered.

“You are no brother of mine,” Tanis sneered back, pushing himself to his knees and swaying. “Not after what you did to her.”

Caius shrugged. “I did what I had to do to win.”

“It has never been a competition,” Tanis yelled pushing to his feet. Staggering a few steps forward he caught himself on a nearby metal post.

“Hasn’t it been?” Caius asked, his anger leaking into this voice. “We awaken. We vie for her affections and she chooses. Then the battle begins. It has always been about competition. Who is the strongest, the most willing to fight for her, to die for her.”

“Which is why we are still fighting,” Tanis hissed, wincing in pain. Gasping, he blinked his eyes, as if to clear his vision. “She loves us both.”

“Yet time and time again she chooses you because of a lie.”

“I never lied to either of you,” Tanis snapped.

“True, but you never corrected it either,” Caius countered.

“And when she chose you. Did you tell her the truth? All of it? Or did you only tell her the parts that would draw her to you?” Tanis asked taking a step towards the dais.

“Enough of this,” Caius snapped, waving a hand in dismissal. “Finish what has been started so we can finally end it.”

“I will not allow you dig your claws into her any further,” Tanis swore standing his ground.

“She is already mine,” Caius snarled, slipping forward on his throne as if he wanted to stand then thought better of it.

The scene jumped and Tanis was lying on top of Kara on the throne room floor, a smile on his face. Above them Caius breathes, “It is done.”

When Kara’s eyes opened and locked with Tanis’s, Brynn felt as if his soul was being ripped in two. Clutching his chest, he doubled over, the pain radiating throughout his body excruciating. It was the same feeling he had had six years ago when his entire world fell apart. When he felt Kara’s presence violently ripped from him, leaving him gasping on the floor in the fetal position feeling utterly empty.

The world had gone into darkness after that. An entire year passed before Brynn was able to claw his way back into the light. An entire year his children had been without either of their parents. All this time he never knew why Kara had disappeared from him so completely. Part of him feared she was dead. Now that he had the truth, Brynn was not so sure believing she was dead was not easier.

“I did not realize watching this would still affect you,” a voice said beside him. Brynn looked up to see Aden standing next to him watching the scene before them, his own pain etched on his face. “It was so long ago,” Aden whispered.

“Why are you here?” Brynn gasped still unable to catch his breath. “Why are you showing me this?”

“Because six years ago I promised I would come back and explain why Kara was taken from you,” Aden answered as he continued to stare at the frozen scene before him.

“Is that the man Chris was talking about? The one Kara was destined to be with?” Brynn asked as he staggered to his feet.

“One of them. Recently I found out it is far more complicated. According to prophecy, Tanis is one-third of what keeps the universe from spinning into chaos and ruin. Kara and the emperor, Caius, are the other two. I,” he hesitated, the anger and pain once again written plainly on his face. “I am either their salvation, or their doom.”

“What do you mean doom?” Brynn asked.

Aden explained the prophecy. When he was done, Brynn was staring at the frozen scene before him as Tanis and Kara looked into each other’s eyes as if no one else existed.

“I still don’t understand your part in this,” Brynn said after a moment of digesting what Aden had told him. “You said you are The Catalyst. What does that even mean?”

“To be honest, I’m not completely sure myself,” Aden answered wearily. He looked at Brynn’s confused expression and came up with no other answer to give him. He was so tired of all the pain, all the unreasonable demands that he was expected to meet. Of being forced away from Kara time and time again when his very soul was aching to touch her, to finish the ritual. Closing his eyes, he swayed on his feet, just the thought of what he and Kara had been long denied sweeping through his body, pulling at what little strength he had left. He was a shell of the man he used to be both physically and mentally. Kara was not much better, but then again she had Tanis to help her. Caius… Gritting his teeth as he clenched his hands, Aden shoved the rage that name conjured down where it did not cause anymore pain.

“Not even the emperor is who I thought he was,” Aden whispered, his eyes still closed. “Everything I knew was a lie.” Looking once more at the picture frozen before them. “Everything except her,” he whispered with a desperation that puzzled Brynn.

“So your emperor, Caius, is connected to Kara and this Tanis?” Brynn asked not wanting to delve any further into Aden’s feeling for his wife.

Aden nodded. “They were created at the same time and are all a part of each other. Kara is the Key. Tanis the light while Caius is the dark. Even though legends say they compete for Kara’s affections, the truth is they live in harmony together with one exception. There was a lie put into place from the very beginning that Kara knows nothing about. They have been able to keep it from her, but now that Caius has broken the one rule that was never to be broken in order to keep the balance, everything is beginning to unravel.”

“What rule? What lie?”

“The lie I don’t know. They keep it closely guarded. The rule is that when one of the three dies, the others would soon follow. Somehow, in the last reincarnation, Caius found a way to stay alive when Kara and Tanis passed away. An outside influence that was not meant to be involved. Then he waited two thousand years for them to return, gathering his strength, learning the intricacies of the prophecy, and more important, what the Gods were not telling them.

“Caius kept his searching for answers and any sign of Kara or Tanis re-emerging secret as he started to methodically gain power and take over one galaxy after another. Unfortunately, he was not careful enough. A small time smuggler had started asking too many questions. We thought we had eliminated her, but she survived a crash landing on a small backwards planet that thought her to be a goddess because of all the technology at her disposal. Once she had gained the title of Queen, Maura contacted one of her most trusted friends and called in a favor. He was to find Kara before Caius did and bring her back so Maura could use her power to take revenge on Caius.”

“Colin,” Brynn breathed.

Aden nodded. “A thief is a thief and Colin ended up betraying Maura by keeping Kara for himself, hoping to use her for his own gains. After years in his tender care, Colin decided to go back and use Kara against Maura. By then Caius heard of Colin’s pet sorcerous who could bend others to her will with the force of her mind, foresee the future, and the one special trait that Colin repeatedly used against Kara. That she could never say no to another’s touch. The time was right and there were too many similarities for Caius to ignore.

“Taking Kara from Colin was not an issue. Reaching him before he made it to his home planet was, because it was the same planet Caius knew Tanis resided. If Kara met Tanis before he had control of her, then all his careful planning, his sacrifices, would be for nothing. So he intercepted them and took her. Then he proceeded to bind her to him.”

“Bind her to him?” Brynn asked. Aside from the prophecy and who this Caius was, most of this was nothing new to him, but Kara had never said anything about being bound to Caius. As he watched Aden try to figure out a way to explain it, he could see the man was not happy about what Caius had done.

“Do you remember the necklace I put on Kara when I was here last?”

“Yes.”

“It is a slaves’ necklace. Very powerful, very old. Whoever puts it on you owns you, body and soul. They are also the only one who can take it off.”

“But you put it on Kara. Wouldn’t that mean she is yours?”

“Caius found a way around that small obstacle. He figured out how to change its power so it only answered to him. What it does is binds Kara with spells that are threaded throughout her body. If she tries to use her powers against Caius or any of his people, her power will rebound back onto her ten times over. If Tanis or…I try to hurt any of them, she will pay the price in excruciating agony. Caius can also use the necklace’s power to punish her. Sending different levels of pain throughout her body for any length of time he wishes. Shortly after we arrived back on the ship, Caius demanded that Kara break the bond between us. An impossibility he would not accept. Because she refused she spent two weeks immersed in agony.”

Brynn did not like Aden’s tone. It was as if Kara’s pain were his fault. Narrowing his eyes, Brynn asked the question he thought he already knew the answer to. “Why so long?”

To his surprise Aden looked directly into his eyes, but they were not defiant. On the contrary, there was so much anguish in them Brynn had a hard time holding his gaze. With visible effort, Aden pulled his emotions in, his face once again a mask of control.

“I tried to help her. I would go in to her cell and give her an hour or two without pain so she could sleep. Our master found out.”

The screen once again came alive.

Aden was in a cell with Kara, holding her to him, tears coursing down his face. Kara’s eyes were closed, her hands wrapped tightly around his arms, whimpering. Suddenly she screamed with such agony Brynn cringed, stepping back, away from the ear piercing sound. In the picture Aden tried desperately to hold her as her back arched, her arms and legs tense.

“Stop! I’ll to anything you want, just…please…stop this!” Aden yelled into the room.

Kara’s screams stopped and she fell limp in his arms, gasping. He immediately pulled her to him, desperately holding her.

“You know what you must do,” a voice hissed throughout the room.

Aden’s hold on Kara tightened as he buried his face into her neck.

“I can’t. You know I can’t,” Aden agonized whispered answered.

“Then it continues,” the emotionless voice growled.

The screen went black. The only light came from a single unseen source directly above them, shinning down in a large circle. Everything outside that circle was complete and utter darkness.

“He bound my powers so I could not help her. I don’t know how long I held her as she screamed, hours, days, before he dragged me to my room and locked me in, but I still felt every second of her agony. Knowing the entire time she was being punished because I dared to help her. Because I dared to…love her,” Aden whispered the last as if was something so precious, to speak it aloud was to commit blasphemy.

Brynn stiffened. He knew Aden had feelings for his wife, but to have them voiced aloud and with such emotion. “If you love her so much, why didn’t you let her go?” he ground out.

Aden looked at Brynn once again. “Because the moment I looked into her eyes, our souls bound themselves to each other. I could no more let her go than I could cut out my own heart, or hers. Caius broke me that day. Then when he brought Tanis to the ship….”

“It felt as if your soul was being ripped from you,” Brynn finished.

Aden nodded. “Caius already had Kara under his control. Tanis was supposed to have been broken before he was brought to the ship, but he proved to be more resistant.”

More scenes flashed before Brynn of various means Caius had taken in an attempt to break Tanis. All of them causing Kara more pain.

“If he was supposed to love her as you say, then why did he allow this to go on for so long? Why didn’t he give Caius what he wanted to stop her suffering? Or try to escape?” Brynn asked, tears streaming down his face as he watched his wife writhing in agony from some unseen force while Tanis and Aden watched helpless to save her. This was the least of the horrors that flashed before him. He turned to Aden and added angrily, “Why didn’t you?”

Aden turned to him with haunted eyes. “We did try to escape, and every time we were punished even more severely than the last. But you must understand something. When Kara and Tanis became one, it was for Good. Where there is Good there must also be Evil to balance it. Caius is that Evil. Or at least the demon he invited into his soul is.

“Demon?”

“A force far stronger than we are, and it wants Kara so he can control us all. For that to happen he needs to bond with Kara, but she kept that from happening when she reconnected our bond. Caius, the real Caius, has been too afraid to finish his part of an age old ritual because the demon may take advantage of the small window of opportunity to bond with Kara itself.”

Shaking his head, Brynn turned and walked a few steps away, his hands on his hips. “This is all too confusing,” he finally said turning back to Aden. “Your bond with Kara was broken and she reconnected it? Why?”

Aden just looked at Brynn. It was a look that left no words left between them.

“I don’t believe that once free of you, she would want to disrupt the natural order of the universe because of your feelings. I was married to her. With her every day until she was taken from me. I know Kara is an empath. That she feels what others feel, and sometimes she cannot differentiate between what she is feeling and what the one touching her is feeling. I also know she can control that part of her curse unless she is weakened down by someone who is stronger than her psychically. Like you were. No matter how you try to justify her feeling for you, according to your prophecy you were never a part of this…mess.” He said the last with a fair amount of disgust because that was exactly what it was. A colossal mess because some of the players could not abide by the rules. “And I don’t believe you are now.”

Aden’s smile was not friendly. “You are all the same. Not wanting to see the truth when it slaps you in the face because it is not what you want.” He stepped closer to Brynn, that rage that he had tamped down early rising to the surface. “I am tired of sanctimonious bastards telling me what I know is true in my heart,” he slapped his chest. “It is not my feelings that Kara is responding to, but her own. She knows the truth. That I am a part of this mess. That I am a part of her.”

“I am her husband…,” Brynn started, stepping forward.

“That does not mean you own her!” Aden yelled moving so he was close enough to that if he swung he would hit Brynn. “What you three keep forgetting is that you do not own her, therefore you cannot tell her what she should do, how she should feel. Kara is the key to everything. If anything, she owns us.”

The silence was filled with heavy breathing as both males did their best to reign in their tempers. Aden was the first to break the long silence.

“I did not come here to fight with you,” he said as calmly as he could. Stepping back, he turned to the side, knowing that looking at one of the males who would keep him from his heart would not help keep his fragile control. “I came here to warn you.”

“What do you mean?” Brynn asked his anger dimming at the possible new threat.

“First, you need to see more to understand.” Waving his hand in front of the picture, it began to move forward, faster and faster. As if Aden had hit fast forward on a movie. He continued his explanation as the pictures flew by. “We would do our best to not give the demon cause to hurt Kara, but it always seemed to find a reason to punish her for something either I or Tanis did. It was not long after that Tanis finally shattered, and now the demon controls four of the most power beings in the universe outside of the Gods themselves. With that power, it is waging a war against all the known races, and it is winning.”

The pictures slowed until they began to switch from one battle to another. Brutal bloody wars being fought at places Brynn had never seen before, races he never knew existed. Of the emperor standing with Tanis and Kara slightly behind him to one side before thousands upon thousands of soldiers, telling them of the worlds they would conquer. Of people on their knees, heads pressed to floor before them chanting something Brynn could not make out.

They stopped on a scene where Caius suddenly pointed to someone, angrily shouting. While Aden and Tanis watched anxiously, Kara stepped forward, raising her hand before her. The helpless man rose into the air screaming in agony. Her face held no emotion as she tortured the man floating before her. It was a few minutes before Caius motioned slightly with his hand and Kara flung her arm to the side. The man flew across the room, crashing into the stone wall with a sickening thud.

Brynn looked into Kara eyes, unwilling to believe the woman he knew, no matter what changes Aden claimed she had gone through, would willingly hurt someone like that. What he saw twisted his heart. Her eyes were dead. As if there was no joy left in a world. He had seen this look many years before, when Colin had beaten her down so far she had almost given up on living. He watched as Kara returned to her place next to Tanis, staring out over the crowd’s heads as if they were not there. Tanis looked at her with a small frown, yet his eyes were just as dead Kara’s. Just as empty.

“We hate going to these assemblies,” Aden said breaking into Brynn’s thoughts. Brynn looked at Aden as he watched Kara with an unreadable expression on his face. “When we return to the ship, Kara cries herself to sleep.”

“How would you know this?” Brynn asked his eyes narrowing.

“Like you once could, I can feel her pain,” Aden answered his voice and eyes far away, as if his mind was on some distant memory. He closed his eyes, his hands going to his face, rubbing it. He then shook his head as if he was trying to shake a memory away and focused back on Brynn, his expression once again empty. “The pain of having her soul ripped from me almost killed me. Not being able to finish the ritual is slowly killing us both.”

“What ritual?” Brynn asked suspiciously.

“You know which one,” Aden said, his eyes blazing with anger for a moment before returning to their emptiness.

Yes, Brynn did know. He was not sure how he knew, but deep down in that place that knew everything Aden had told him about the prophecy was true knew exactly what Aden was talking about.

“Caius and Tanis have kept us apart, or at least has never allowed us to be alone these last six years. One is too jealous, the other fearful of what would happen once we do finish it. What it would mean. All it has done is weaken us further and allowed the demon to dig it’s claws in to Kara deeper.”

“On this I can agree with them,” Brynn muttered angrily. “I have told you time and time again, Kara does not belong to you.”

Aden’s eyes flashed dangerously. “What you all seem to keep forgetting is when I was lying on the floor, shattered, utterly alone and empty, it was Kara who reached out to me. That she was the one who reestablished our connection, bound us far more tightly together than even I thought possible.”

Brynn stared at Aden, not wanting to hear his words. Kara did not love this dark man before him. She couldn’t. “You told me the prophecy spoke of a mate that she had children with, me, and the two she is bound to for eternity, which are Caius and Tanis. You have never mentioned a third.”

“That’s not quite true. There was nothing about a fourth,” Aden corrected. “As I told you early, I have been reading some of the scrolls Caius has collected over the years. Obscure writings that tell of a fourth, a catalyst that will bring about a new beginning or the universe’s doom. It is a key point in time that must happen in at a certain place and time. That time is coming and the demon inside Caius grew restless because he had yet been able to bond with Kara. We have all fought him, managed to keep one step ahead of him, until now.”

Rubbing his face with his hands, Brynn turned away from Aden. Everything he was telling him was becoming too much. Locking his fingers on the stop of his head, he knew none of this mattered to him except that Kara was suffering and there did not seem to be anything he could do to stop it. He turned to face Aden, again.

“I’ve already asked you this once. Now I need an answer. Why are you here? Why are you telling me all this?” his frustration and pain showing through his anger.

“Because Kara will be coming back to this place, but she will not be coming back to you,” Aden answered, his voice once again monotone.

Whatever the reason Kara was coming home, it did not please Aden.

“I don’t understand,” Brynn frowned.

“Seven months ago, the demon sent Tanis and I on a scouting trip. The trip would take ten days. Four days there, two days to scout then the trip home. In addition, the distance would take a toll on all of us. We cannot be apart from Kara for any length of time or we weaken and it’s physically painful for all of us. The demon said he was separating us because we needed to be reminded of our place in his world. There was nothing we had done, but we couldn’t argue with him or the punishment would be far worse. On the sixth day, Tanis collapsed and I felt a wrenching so deep it brought me to my knees. Something was happening to Kara, and whatever it was it was not good.” Aden words cut off as if he was being strangled. Abruptly he turned away from Brynn.

“What happened?” Brynn demanded. It seemed like eternity before Aden spoke again.

“When we returned and we found out what he had done, I went to Caius intent on killing him. Instead, he decided I needed to know every detail, every horror mentally and physically Kara went through when we were not there to stop it.” He waved his hand over the blackness that was before them. “As a result, I have a detailed description of what he did to her. I will not show all of it to you. I don’t want you to suffer as I have with these images, and Kara would not want you to know the horrors she suffered.”

The picture started out fuzzy then cleared to show a sparsely decorated bedroom. In the middle of the bed lay Kara sleeping peacefully. The door slid open and three men burst into the room, tearing her from her bed. They dragged her down the hall into another bedroom throwing her to her hands and knees on the floor.

“Just where you belong,” a deep masculine voice purred. “On your knees before me.”

A man so handsome he could be called beautiful walked into the room from a side door. His shoulder length black hair, tan skin, chiseled features, well-toned muscles radiated power. Brynn amended that thought. Radiated power and sex. Who he realized with a start was Caius wore an open black silk robe with matching pants. A true God in human form. Maybe that was why his voice sounded as if it echoed. As if there was another voice over laying the first. Brynn remembered what Aden and said and knew it was not a god that stood before Kara, but a demon.

Fear stabbed through Brynn as he looked over at Kara who was still on her knees but sitting up, her thin negligee doing nothing to hide her body. Brynn gasped at the difference in her. Her features were regal, her auburn hair and pale skin practically glowed, but as Brynn looked closer he could see lines etched around her eyes and mouth. Even though she hid it well, she was in a lot of pain. Brynn realized that she would not lower herself show weakness in front of Caius, even though he could see it cost her dearly. As she sat there, her expression was defiant.

“Go to hell,” Kara spat.

“Been there, done that,” the demon said nonchalantly as he walked over to pour himself a drink at a nearby table. “And believe me when I say it’s highly overrated. However, I didn’t invite you to talk about vacation destinations. I have something much more…pleasurable to discuss with you.”

Kara stiffened. “I have told you. I have no interest in lying in your bed, demon.”

“No? I beg to differ,” the demon said moving to stand in front of her. Kara refused to look up at him. Instead she looked to the side, her eyes fixed on something Brynn could not see. What he could see was the pain being replaced with fear. “You’re weak without your lovers, in constant pain.” He squatted down in front of her. “I want to only give you a few hours of peace.” Gently he cupped her cheek turning her eyes to his. As soon as they locked Kara’s body visibly relaxed. “Now, isn’t that better?” the demon whispered his eyes moving to her lips.

“That is not all you want from me,” she whispered the fear still in her voice, “and I will not freely give it to you.”

“No, I suppose not. But it is not your soul I am after today. It is your body.”

Kara tightly closed her eyes as she struggled against some unseen force. The demon put his other hand on the other side of her face holding her in place, his eyes never leaving her face, his concentration deepening.

“Get out of my head,” she gritted through her teeth.

“You cannot fight me forever, Kara. Give in to what you know you crave. Give in to me.”

“Never!” she hissed. “You may hold Caius prison, wear his image as your own, but I know who you are. What you are. I will never give you what you want, Malphas,” she growled, opening her eyes to glare at him. It was a mistake. Very briefly Caius’s eyes flashed red and another image superimposed itself over his. Hissing not unlike a cat hisses at something that frightens it, Kara broke free of the demon’s grip, falling backwards.

“How do you know my name,” he hissed. Kara refused to answer, instead glaring defiantly at Malphas, careful to not make eye contact. “Nevermind how you know,” Malphas said waving his hand in dismissal. “It will not change what will happen today. They thwarted me once. I will not allow them to do it again. Not when I am so close to victory.”

“What are you talking about?” Kara gasped pushing herself unsteadily to her feet.

“A war that has been waging long before this universe was created. A decision that has hundreds of thousands of chances to be made but had never been given. Of gods and goddesses playing with the very fabric of life as if it were some trivial toy. Of lies and deceit and callousness. I plan to end it all and bring peace from chaos one last time with the making of a single soul. With our child’s innocence.”

“Again, I have no clue what you are talking about.” Clearly Malphas had lost his mind. Then two words registered, and Kara’s eyes widen in horror. “Our child? We don’t have a child. Even if I wanted to, the body you inhabit and I could never have children. It is forbidden.”

Malphas smiled as he slowly walked forward as Kara walked backwards until she hit the wall. “My dear naïve Kara. There is much you do not know. A whole other prophecy has been played out before and must be played out again.” His eyes flashed red, telling Kara that the next words were not from the male she knew, but from some ancient being thought long banish, “And this time, I will win.”

Pinning her to the wall with his body, Caius caressed her cheek with the back of his fingers, gazing into her frighten eyes. “In the next five days, I will take you in ways you have never dreamed of. The pleasure of my love making will be…excruciating. Only when you are with child will I cease, after which I will hide you away until our child is born. You will remain hidden where the others who wish to harm us cannot touch either of you. When he is of age, when he has been properly trained and can defend himself from the Gods, we will bring him into the light and end the endless cycle of truth and lies.”

Suddenly he was savagely kissing her. Kara tried to fight him, but he was too strong. Finally he backed away, allowing her to breathe.

“Stay out of my head, demon from hell!” she gritted out once again, tightly closing her eyes as if in pain.

“We can do this the hard way or the easy way, Kara. Let me in and these next few days will be far more pleasant for you.”

“Never!” she spat.

Sighing, Malphas took a step backwards. “Have it your way.”

In a flash Kara was lying on the king size bed with her hands tied above her head.

“There have been many nights I dreamed of taking you in front of Tanis while he was helpless to stop me. Regretted not doing it more the day Selene interfered. Now you are too weak to fight me, and he is thousands of miles away unable to help you.” Allowing his robe to slide down his arms to pool on the floor, he climbed onto the bed until he was on all fours above her. “You are so beautiful,” he whispered, his eyes traveling down her body.

There was a difference in his voice. A gentleness that did not belong to the demon who had been there a moment before.

“Caius?” Kara whispered hopefully.

The eyes that moved to stare into hers will filled with regret. “I am sorry,” Caius whispered. “For everything I have done, all the pain I have caused you because of my selfish desire never to see you die in our arms again. All the pain I will cause because I am not strong enough to stop him. I was never strong enough….”

Caius’s head bowed, his back arched, teeth gritting, body tense, fighting some unseen force. With great effort, he looked back into Kara’s eyes and breathed, “I love you.”

Flinging his head back, the demon’s voice echoed around the room as it roared in rage. When he looked down at Kara, his teeth bared, his eyes were glowing red, she gasped.

“No!” Malphas hissed. “She is MINE!”

Brynn stared in horror, unable to take his eyes off the screen in front of him as Malphas spent the next five days raping Kara. Some of the things he did to her, he used on her, would haunt Brynn for the rest of his life, and Aden said he was not going to show him the worst of it. Brynn could not imagine it anything viler than what was playing before his eyes. Although the worst for Brynn was that even though she fought him with everything she had, in the end Kara was begging the demon not to stop.

When Tanis and Aden finally returned they found Kara unconscious and chained on the bed naked, bruised and bloody. Once they returned to the safety of her and Tanis’s room, Aden went to find Caius to kill him only to be brought to his knees and forced to relive everything Kara had gone through in the last five days, over and over until he lay huddled on the floor, tears streaming down his face, a broken man.

Mercifully the screen when black.

Brynn found himself on his knees again, gasping for air.

“I want you to remember Kara fought the demon for as long as she could before he finally broke through her defenses. Kara wanting the pain, wanting Malphas was a product of his feelings. She just could not differentiate her revulsion from his lust.”

“Is she,” Brynn swallowed hard, the need to vomit strong, “is she…?”

“Pregnant? Yes. Did demon bond with her? No. It seems he has decided on a new course to reach his goal.”

Brynn looked up at Aden. The way he had said yes. There had been no emotion, yet there was a strain that spoke volumes. Aden was beyond furious at what happened, at the result, but there was nothing anyone could do about it. Malphas wanted a child and that is what he got. Now he would do anything to protect it. The no was said with such relief it grated down Brynn’s spine. What right did this man have to put a claim on his wife?

“Thankfully Kara has little or no memory of what happened to her. She thinks the child belongs to Tanis. To keep her sanity in tack we have fostered this idea. If she knew the truth,” Aden swallowed hard before whispering, “she would not survive the guilt. Caius broke the rules in an attempt to end a cycle that has been in play for far longer than even we realize. Now we must deal with the consequences and try to figure out how to live with the outcome. Since the demon wants this child and is willing to do anything to assure it birth, we were able to convince it to allow Kara to finish her last trimester somewhere away from the tension in the ship and where his enemies would not find her. So Malphas is hiding her here.”

Brynn’s heart beat faster at the thought of Kara coming home. He had never thought to see her again. Worried about their children growing up without knowing their mother. Now, maybe there was a chance. She could see how big Jamie had become; see what her powers have developed into. See the bright young man Chris had grown to be.

As Brynn looked up at Aden, his smile slowly slid from this face. Aden’s expression was sad and regretful. Then Brynn remembered what he had told him. Kara was a different person. She belonged to a fate she had no control over and her past life, past loves, were a distant memory to her. The thought of having her so close but inaccessible would be torture, for both of them.

“Why here?” Brynn asked climbing to his feet. “There must be hundreds of other places he could put her that would not be so painful for all of us.”

“This is a demon we are talking about. A being that thrives on chaos, on pain. It knows no other way. Besides, can you think of no better place to put Kara so she can bear his bastard child? This was her home, a place where she felt safe from outside harm, and it is where you are. I don’t care what the prophecy says, I don’t believe she has forgotten about you or her life here. Not completely. Having you and her children around her with Tanis at her side will bring her pain knowing she was betraying someone she loves. To the demon’s way of thinking, this is the perfect place. She will be at ease being home, yet tortured because she is at home.”

Brynn turned away as he took deep breaths trying to calm himself down. Hands on his hips, he closed his eyes and tilted his head back. How as he going to explain this to everyone? People would ask questions, spread rumors, and he had no idea how to explain why his wife, who had been missing for over six years, had come back with another man and pregnant.

Brynn pushed out the images he has seen of what Malphas had forced on her. It made him sick to think she went through something that horrendous. The one question he did not know the answer too was how he should deal with Tanis. Tanis was a different than the others. Kara and Brynn had been soul mates up until he had come into the picture, and Brynn was having a hard time coming to terms with the fact Tanis resided in his place in Kara’s heart. He held an unbreakable bond with her that had lasted eons. And the connection she seemed to have with Aden. A connection that should not be there. This entire nightmare must be tearing her apart.

“Your master is truly evil,” Brynn said quietly not turning to face Aden but instead staring out into the blackness.

“You have no idea,” Aden agreed just as quietly. “This child will be made of evil, born from an evil act. I believe Malphas will hide them until the child is old enough so that he can possess the child much like he possesses Caius. Until then, they will be staying at a farm within the wards Caius had set up previously in order to protect her from those still searching for her,” he finished.

Brynn turned to him in surprise. “There was just a farm sold and renovated a few months ago not far…from…here,” his voice trailed off as he now realized how close Kara would really be. Aden nodded his head slightly.

“I will leave it up to you whether or not to contact her, but I think it will be difficult not to see her when she cannot leave the confines of this region. Then there is the pull that will be there between the two of you. That will never go away. There is one thing I want you to keep in mind. No matter what you feel, what you think she still feels for you, Kara is no longer only yours. She also belongs to Tanis, and me.”

“Yours? She was never yours, Aden,” Brynn growled coming nose to nose with him. “She was…is my wife. You took advantage of the situation she was in for your own selfish needs.”

Aden’s anger rose for a moment before it evaporated back into the numb mindless state he had been living in for months. What had happened while they were unable to protect Kara from Malphas had finally killed what little spirit had been left in Aden, and no amount of assurance from Kara that there was nothing he could have done to stop it could ease his guilt. The few times he managed to be alone with her before the others found them, he had just held her as she cried, vowing he would do his best never to be the one that made her cry again.

Being so close to her and unable to finish the ritual that would finalize their binding, unable to help her as he would like because there were two very jealous demi-gods constantly in his way had been very difficult. She was the only light in his dark world, and yes, he needed her. But what the others failed to recognize was she needed him too. For whatever reason, the heavens have deemed him a part of what is to come. The only uncertainty is whether or not Tanis and Caius or the would be a part of that future.

The prophecy laid out what their roles would be in the coming days, but this was not Brynn’s concern and Aden was taking too much time with him. Already he could feel Malphas searching for him. Malphas. That name sent chills down the spine of the strongest of them. Finding his true name had cost many lives, and Aden feared there would be many more to pay. Until then he needed to be careful. Knowing if he stayed hidden much longer the demon would start to become suspicious, he turned back to Brynn for one last thing.

“There is one thing I wanted to ask of you. The wards are still active, but that does not mean Colin will not try to break through. For some reason Jamie can tell when he is near. I want you to ask him to inform Tanis if he senses him anywhere near here. Tanis will then contact me and I will take care of the bastard once and for all.”

“He’s still alive?”

“Over the years he has had an uncanny knack of finding Kara and trying to take her. When he fails, he somehow disappears without a trace. None of us want him near Kara. If he tries to take her here, hopefully we can destroy him once and for all.”

Brynn nodded he would do as Aden asked.

Aden’s eyes grew far away, as if he was listening to something Brynn could not hear “I must go. My master impatiently awaits my return so he can bring Tanis and Kara here.” He began to fade from Brynn’s vision as did the light from above. “Remember what you have seen tonight. Tell the others what you think they need to know. Brace yourself for what you will feel when you finally realize you have lost her.”

Brynn woke with a start, the covers flying as he sat up in bed. His eyes darted around the room in the dawn light to find himself alone.

Chapter 22
Chapter 24

Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes