**Oh here we go. Now that I’m feeling marginally better, things are heating up with Gareth and Owen. The end is nigh. Enjoy**
For a minute, the fear and panic overrode everything and I couldn’t focus on what they were saying. It was as though white noise obscured my hearing, just a buzz of sound that blocked anything else out. But Owen’s loud and inventive cursing pulled me back to the present and I sucked in a breath as I made myself focus in time to catch the important questions.
“How in the fuck did she get past our pack?”
“Best guess is sleeping spell. Your packmember is unharmed, but comatose for the moment.” Lane’s voice was high and he was speaking fast. “Her scent is all over the apartment though, and our agents are working with your alpha to track where she took Aeron.”
Tracking. Oh. I could do better than wolves. At least where my brother was concerned. I jumped up and jammed my feet into my sneakers, not even caring that the back of one stayed stuck under my heel, and rushed to the door. Owen caught me, Lane stepped in front of me, and I fought them both.
“I can track him.” My voice was desperate and I didn’t even try to hide it. “I can do it, better than anyone else. I have to find him.”
Owen reeled me in, holding me tight, even as I tried to get free. He grabbed my chin, and made me look at him. “Because of your mind-meld thing.”
I nodded even though it wasn’t a question. And that wasn’t exactly what Aeron and I had but I wasn’t going to stop to explain. Not now. I had to get to my brother. Owen nodded.
“That’s great and we can use that, but Gareth, you can’t—”
Owen’s eyes flashed amber and the growl that rose up from his chest stopped Lane’s words short.
“Get. Out. Of. Our. Way.”
Oscar hissed from his perch on Lane’s shoulder, and Lane’s eyes hardened. “I’m going with you. And you will do as I say. Do you understand?”
“You bet,” I agreed quickly, not meaning it at all. While the rational part of my brain understood that the MBI was not only in charge of this case but trained for situations like this, my heart didn’t care. My brother was in trouble and at the hands of the woman who birthed us. Who’d proven she was a vile creature who didn’t care about her children. There was no telling what she would do.
Owen dropped to his knees and shifted, faster than I’d ever seen him do it before. It only took seconds and then he was a wolf, shaking himself out of his pants and underwear. I took a moment to help him out of the shirt, but then I was running, my familiar and mate at my side. Lane grabbed my arm and steered me toward his SUV and I was quick to hop in, making sure Owen’s tail was out of the way before I slammed the door shut.
Lane, for his part, started the engine and pulled out onto the street. “Where’m I going?”
I had to take a moment to center myself, which was hard with the worry coursing through my veins. But Aeron was right there, just like he always was, at the edge of my awareness when I looked for him. He wasn’t conscious but I could feel him.
It was hard to split my focus between that and my connection to my brother. My words came out stilted as I tried to speak. “East…not far…miles…east.”
I heard Lane speaking, but it wasn’t to me, so I tuned it out and concentrated. Aeron was in rough shape, that much I could tell. And whatever that bitch was doing to him hurt. Even though Aeron wasn’t aware, exactly—I couldn’t tell if he just passed out or if she’d done something to him—it still hurt. Deep down, in his soul. I gritted my teeth against the pain. If I only felt a residual amount, I couldn’t imagine the agony he was in.
“She’s hurting…him…go faster.” I panted with the effort, and Owen pressed against me. I slid my fingers into his fur, holding on tight, and pulled on our bond, using it to gather more magic and strength.
It took trial and error, a few wrong turns, and my increasing panic didn’t help. With ever minute that passed, I felt Aeron slipping further away, even as I could tell we were getting closer to his physical location. Then suddenly, it was as though he was right in front of me and I screamed for Lane to stop. He slammed on his breaks, and if I hadn’t been wearing my seatbelt, I would have gone through the front windshield.
It was a rundown looking apartment building on the far side of town, which I only knew because Aeron had looked at a place nearby before the pack put their foot down and helped him get into a better place closer to pack territory. But he was in that building somewhere, I knew it.
Lane threw the car into park, jumped out, and right before he slammed the door shut, he yelled, “Stay in the car!”
Owen and I were out of the vehicle seconds later, and Lane was yelling at us, but we both ignored him. The security door to the vestibule wasn’t locked and I raced through, my hand still buried in Owen’s fur. He was leading the way now, nose lifted, and I let my connection with Aeron go. Owen could find him by scent now, and I could focus my magic in other ways.
Up the stairs, Lane on our heels, past the second floor and to the third. Owen paused at the door, I tried to control my breathing, and then Owen moved forward. We crept down the hall, past several apartments. The air stank of rotting food and mildew, the carpet stained with gods knew what. My heart was pounding in my chest.
Owen stopped in front of a door halfway down, then leaned hard against me. I drew power through him, focused it, and blasted the door off the hinges.
It only took a second to parse out what I was seeing. My brother, lying prone on the ground, Remy lifeless on his chest. Black magic wove around him, sucking his magic and lifeforce into the woman who had once been my mother.
I screamed, wordless and filled with rage. My magic burst out of me, not really focused, and the power of it knocked Bianca off her feet. The magic connecting her to Aeron didn’t break though, and that needed to happen. Lane was shouting behind me, at me or at her, I wasn’t sure. I didn’t care.
I slammed a shield spell forward, cutting her off from Aeron, and the concussive force of it made plaster crack and the floor creak. Bianca spun up another spell, this time aimed at me, and Owen darted forward, attacking with fangs and claws. She went down under him and I scrambled forward, needing to protect both my mate and my brother. Another shield around Owen kept Bianca’s magic from hitting him, but it reverberated against my magic in a painful way. I gasped, air sucked from my lungs, and dropped to my knees.
I yanked hard on the bond, needing the grounding it provided, and Owen hunched low with the strength of it, still snarling at Bianca but safe in my shield. This wasn’t my strong suit, and I hadn’t been trained in it, so it was all I could do to keep us all safe while Bianca rallied her magic and tried to attack again.
I wasn’t alone, though. Lane was there, and his magic added to mine, bumping up against it pleasantly until it streaked past in a binding ward. It wouldn’t hold her for long. I knew her strength when she wasn’t charged up, and she’d been draining Aeron.
But seconds later the room was flooded with more MBI agents and the combination of magic and shifters was enough. Bianca finally went down under the combined force and within minutes she was unconscious and so tightly magically bound, she had no hope of escaping.
Breathing hard, I let my magic go and finally turned my attention to my brother and his familiar. My hands shook as I touched them, panic screaming in my gut, but then a relieved sob escaped. They were both alive and breathing, though in rough shape. Drained near death, but alive. I pulled on my bond again and Owen leaned heavily against me, but I had to shore up Aeron and Remy. I couldn’t do much because I wasn’t a healer. But I could help.
Lane came over a minute later. He touched my shoulder and fed me some power for a few moments, then crouched down. “Let EMS have them. Come on, Gareth. Back off.”
I did, slowly, and trying to fight tears. Owen pushed up under my chin and I gave him my full weight. Once I’d pulled back my magic, EMS swooped in with IVs and vitals and magic of their own. I sat down hard and buried my face into Owen’s fur.
Lane leaned in close. “You’re in trouble.” But he said it with affection that let me know that while I was going to have to answer for what I’d done, I wasn’t actually in trouble. “Get up when you can. We’ll get statements and then get you to the hospital.”
I nodded slowly, sucked in a breath that also got me a mouthful of fur, and tried to get myself back together. I was crashing hard, exhaustion creeping in now that the fear was past. Aeron was loaded onto a stretcher and wheeled out the door, Remy receiving care right along with him.
I struggled to my feet. It was going to be a long day.