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The silver siren, p.9
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       The Silver Siren, p.9

           Chanda Hahn

  “Joss. I’m really—um—not sure that I—no. I’m not—in love with anyone!” I shot out in between fits of coughing. One great red eyebrow rose on Hemi’s large face before it dropped back down and he let out a snore. Absolutely feigning sleep.

  Finally, when my coughing subsided and my faced returned to a normal color, I looked over at Joss. His expression was unreadable. Joss’s blue-green eyes gazed at me thoughtfully. He leaned back in his chair and tapped his fingers along the hard wood table.

  “Huh, I wasn’t expecting that answer. Not exactly. But then I guess I deserve it, because I need to earn back your trust. Don’t worry. I will.” Joss flashed me a very relieved and determined smile.

  I was happy—I think—at his reaction, but I suddenly felt overwhelmingly tired.

  “I’m sorry, but I think I need to get some rest.”

  Joss immediately jumped up and Hemi lumbered up as well. My room ended up being the same room as the last time I’d stayed here. Joss and Hemi shared the room connected to mine.

  Hemi had already walked through my room and checked the door between the rooms. He went back in to settle in for the night, which left Joss and me alone in the hallway. Joss was reluctant to say goodnight. Only one sconce on the wall remained lit. My door, at the end of the hall, was in the darkest corner.

  Joss grabbed my hand and clasped it in between his. It was warm and comforting, until I looked into his face and saw the heat burning there. Suddenly an excited thrill race up my body.

  “You don’t know how scared I’ve been, knowing you were gone and that I couldn’t go after you. I was drowning in worry the last few days without you. But now that I have you back, I can breathe again.” He pressed his forehead into mine as his hands delicately ran up my forearms sending a wave of goose bumps in their wake.

  I shuddered and pressed myself closer to him. It was a different being near Joss than it was with Kael. Joss was like a slow burning flame that, if given the chance, could quickly spread and overtake me. And I truly believed he would give up everything to be with me, even leaving his home, his clan. That thought both disturbed me and pleased me.

  “Do you trust me?” he asked.


  Joss leaned forward and ran his fingers back up my arm, but this time it was different. I felt a tingle of power race up my body and I shivered. It was warm and thrilling. I could see what he was doing. He was opening up a thread of power and was slowly trickling it along my skin. It was intoxicating to be touched by his power, and I wanted to be closer, wanted more. He leaned in and I closed the distance between us greedily.

  The mix of our power and our kiss made my subconscious rise. Even with my eyes closed, I could see the bright light that was his center pulsing and burning brightly. My thread of power reached toward his and caressed it gently. Joss shivered in reaction. But then I saw the color of my power. His was glowing gold, mine a dark shadow. Could he not see the difference, see how wrong mine was? I tried to dismiss my frustration and lose myself once more in the kiss, reaching for him hungrily.

  Joss groaned.

  I was no longer touching him but draining him, like I had done with Kael.

  “No!” I ripped myself away from the kiss and stared at Joss in fear. We were both breathing heavily and I held up a hand, warning him to keep his distance. I reached behind me for the door handle. Quickly, I disappeared behind the door and slid the lock in place.

  “Hey,” Joss whispered through the door. “I don’t know what just happened, but it was unforgettable.”

  “That kiss, dear Joss, was almost your undoing. I think we might both be safer with a solid door between us for now.”

  “But that door will have to be opened sometime, someday.”

  “If you knew what was good for you, you would keep it closed.” Permanently, I whispered under my breath. “I’ll see you in the morning, Joss,” I called out, hoping to end the conversation and his hovering by my door. It was a few minutes before the door to the room next door opened and closed.

  My head was starting to pound and I knew how to read the signs. Kael was fast. Faster than I gave him credit for.

  I sighed and moved to ready myself for bed. I cleaned the road dust off with the bowl of water and bar of soap that was provided. I opened the window to let in a cool breeze and then changed into a clean pair of pants and long over shirt. I pulled out the extra knife I kept in my boot, extinguished the candle, and lay in the cold bed, waiting. I listened to the hustle and bustle of the inn as people came in, ate, drank, and either left or went to a room.

  Even though I was exhausted, I didn’t sleep. It must have been after midnight. I shivered in the cold, refusing to close the window and holding onto the knife under my pillow. I made sure to face the wall so I could see the crack of moonlight coming in. It was another hour after before my headache receded.

  I gripped the knife tighter in my hand, noticing the slight change of shadow as the window shutter opened from the outside. I watched as it was slowly closed all the way and then heard him latch it from the inside. I turned silently to lie on my back.

  The room was now in complete darkness, but I could see perfectly. Kael was moving closer to me, and I smiled maliciously.

  My hand shot out with the knife toward his chest, but he caught it easily. With two swift moves, he disarmed me and pinned my hands behind above my head. My knife lay useless across the floor. I was trapped under his body.

  “You know there is such a thing as a door,” I whispered. “You should try it sometime.”

  “I like the challenge,” was his reply back. My heart beat louder in my chest but I froze, refusing to move. The same way he could always find me, I was able to tell whenever he was near, especially if we’d been apart for any long periods of time. Stupid headache.

  “I think you’re losing your touch in your old age, Kael.” I looked down at the knife that was on the floor. “Not as silent as you used to be.”

  “Maybe I wouldn’t have to keep sneaking in windows and houses if you would just stay in one place instead of running off,” he squeezed my wrists firmly in a gentle warning, and rolled onto his back next to me on the bed sinking comfortably into my pillow.

  “Well, I had worn out my welcome in your village, and I was tired of being constantly tossed into sheds and deep holes.”

  “None of them seemed like much of a challenge for you. Why balk at a few tests?”

  “Tests! Tests. Torture.”

  “So you went through a bit of the Initiation, although it was altered because you were an outsider. But you passed all of them and earned quite a bit of respect. When I left, the Sanctuary was in upheaval with all the diverse opinions. Let’s just say, Thalia, I don’t think the clan will ever be the same.”

  “I, uh, didn’t mean to upset everyone.”

  “Didn’t you though?” he spoke softly. “You seem to have a habit of coming in like a storm and leaving a path of destruction and confusion in your wake.”

  I pulled at the blanket to cover me but it was now stuck under Kael’s heavy body. “I don’t.” I yanked on the blanket again.

  Kael conceded a foot by turning over and releasing more of it. He handed me the pillow and put his hands above his head.

  “You do, but I take it back. It’s not really everyone that you affect that way. It’s just me.” He turned his head and I was caught up in both his deep stormy eyes and his confession. I could see the pain, the hurt. It was like a two-edged knife, and we kept using it to hurt each other in our anger.

  “I’m sorry, Kael.” The pain and the guilt I had thought buried rose to the surface all over again. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was you that night. I lost control and you paid the price. Please you must believe me.” Small tears fell down my cheeks, and I fought against every one of them.

  Kael pulled me into his arms, my head on his chest. He didn’t chastise me for crying, and I couldn’t have stopped myself if I tried.

  “Shh,” he said, his
heart beating a steady rhythm. “Do you hear it? It beats for you, Thalia. It beats because of you.”

  I was afraid to move, afraid to wake up from whatever dream we were in. “I still can’t believe you’re alive,” I whispered.

  “You’re my reason for living now. In fact, I don’t think my heart truly started to beat until I met you.”

  I lifted my head off of his chest, but his right hand slid to my waist keeping me pressed close to his side. His grip was firm. He wasn’t going to let me go.

  “You have to be careful. I can’t control my power lately, and I might kill you again.”

  “You won’t.” His voice turned husky as he leaned forward.

  I held my breath, waiting to see what he would do.

  Gently, he pushed me back against the bed and sat up. My mouth went dry and my heart raced. Kael crawled over me and, being very careful to not touch me anywhere else, placed his head on my chest, over my heart—

  Which was at this moment racing frantically. I was afraid to move.

  Kael spoke softly as he listened to the rhythm. “As long as your heart beats, so does mine. I kind of like that. It’s the ultimate bond between us.”

  “You didn’t use too. You hated it. Hated the loss of your freedom. I remember how angry you were—“

  Kael chuckled and silenced my argument with a deep kiss that left me breathless and excited. His lips were soft and warm, but his kiss was intense. Demanding. Possessive. Heat coursed through my body. My heart raced faster than a hummingbird. I was falling off a cliff and, like all the other times before, I knew Kael would save me. And with that kiss he did. It felt more than good, it felt right. And I knew that I couldn’t kill him with a kiss.

  He pulled away, breaking the kiss, and I groaned in disappointment. Kael breathed out softly, “What can I say? You’ve started to grow on me.” His eyes said he meant those words.

  “What? Like a wart?” I whispered, and tried to hold back the laughter that swelled in me. I was elated that he kissed me, not in challenge to anger or to get back at Joss. Kael kissed me because he truly desired me. That thought both exhilarated me and made me nervous. Was I betraying Joss? Was I leading on two men? My mood shifted from top-of-the-mountain-exuberant bliss to bottom-of-a-rotten-barrel-of-fish depressed.

  “Thalia, you talk too much.” His eyes danced with light, and I could see the heat building behind them as he leaned forward and kissed me again. But my own morals had me balking.

  “Kael, you shouldn’t kiss me. Joss is…mmmfff” Kael interrupted me and kissed me again, and I lost all thought of what I was going to say.

  “Don’t…talk…so…much.” His lips pressed against my chin, my neck, my shoulder. It felt good—too good—and I didn’t want him to stop.

  “I think—” I started.

  “You think too much as well,” he challenged, looking at me sternly.

  “You shouldn’t kiss me.” I tried to pull away. At first he wasn’t going to let me go, but then he did. I escaped from the intense heat of his body by scooting over closer to the wall.

  His eyes turned dark with frustration. “I’m tired of waiting, Thalia. I’m not a patient person. You have to know.”

  “What do you mean, Kael? You know I like Joss.” I tried to move away again, but his hands on either side of me pinned me in. Kael’s determination scared me.

  “You know what we share is infinitely more powerful than…that. And you feel this between us too,” he growled. “You melt when I kiss you. You watch me when you think I’m unaware. You can’t sleep unless I’m near you. Tell me none of that is true.”

  I swallowed nervously and licked my lips. “No. That’s all true.”

  “I promised your father I would give you time, but I’m tired of waiting. Tired of watching Joss try and win your heart from me.”

  “Kael, I don’t understand. How is Joss keeping you from me, when you and I don’t think of one another that way?”

  “Don’t think of—Thalia! You and I are life mates.”

  Chapter 13

  I shoved away from Kael, banging my head. “Ouch! How can that be? You aren’t making sense, Kael.” I brought my hand up to my head to make sure a knot wasn’t forming.

  I couldn’t breathe. My chest tightened with anxiety and something else I couldn’t identify. Fear? Excitement? Hope? In one sentence, my future had been decided for me. The choice was never mine. It was foolish of me to think otherwise, since I was willing to marry the winner of the Kragh Aru. Now the prospect of being with the strong, deadly, passionate SwordBrother for the rest of my life filled me with both panic and elation.

  Kael sat up on the edge of the bed, turning his back to me. “It was the only reason your father allowed you to go to Skyfell in the first place, Thalia, because I promised my life for yours. That is not something a SwordBrother does lightly. Yet I would do it again for you.”

  All I could do was shake my head at Kael. “How did you get my father to agree to it? You’re not clan.”

  Kael shot me a look over his shoulder in disbelief. “I won the Kragh Aru, remember? The final battle was rescheduled to take place the next day between your cousin and me. Instead, our final match was a battle to the death beside a waterfall—a small technicality, but one worth mentioning to your father. And if you remember, it was you who determined the prize for the winner of the Kragh Aru. You were to be his life mate.”

  “But you said you weren’t entering the Kragh Aru for the prize. You said you were competing so I would be free to help find a way to break the bond. I remember. You said it was a silly marriage game, and once our bond was broken I could be free to make whatever stupid mistakes I wanted.” I was filled with panic, but I wasn’t sure why.

  Maybe I had thought so hard and so long about how a future with Joss might be near impossible, that I never bothered to think of a future with Kael.

  “I lied.” Kael turned to face me and his eyes bored into mine. “I don’t want the bond broken between us. It has become quite handy when you get in trouble, which is often.” He reached forward and ran his calloused hand gently over the top of my head and down my cheek.

  Closing my eyes, I let his words sink deep within my soul and anchor there.

  “Later that night, when your cousin Bvork had kidnapped you, I felt like I lost you. And I realized—bond or no bond—I needed you in my life.”

  “But you only came after me because of the bond. If you hadn’t you would’ve died, right? Your feelings are misplaced,” I implored.

  “Thalia, I followed you to Haven because of the bond and the fear of death. And I know what I said about following you to Valdyrstal. I did try to stay away from you, but I couldn’t. Not because of the pain but because I didn’t want to be away from you. I can still feel you—here.” Kael touched his chest. “I can still feel the magnetic pull of you. I’m drawn to you, Thalia.”

  Kael lowered his head and pressed his forehead to mine.

  “You didn’t know this, but since the first day I arrived in the dungeon, every time they drugged you and brought you into the laboratory, I was there too. I was chained to the wall, bound, and forced to watch helplessly as they tortured you in the machine.”

  “No,” I whispered, my doubt genuine. “I never saw you.”

  “But I saw you, Thalia.” He stood. “I watched as they strapped you in and injected you with a serum. I begged them to stop when they started the machine and you screamed until you would pass out.” Kael’s knuckles clenched in frustration and his voice deepened with hate. “I even offered complete compliance, if they would just quit torturing you.”

  I blanched at Kael’s offer of utter sacrifice for me.

  “They usually drugged me, you know this already. But they promised to take it easier on you, if I complied. They took my blood and did something to it. I felt like they were tearing away a part of my soul, and I watched as they gave it to you. Even then I wanted to rip them apart and kill them. I wanted to protect you to save you. Something
started in those moments, and I began to fall for you.”

  “I didn’t know.” I choked on my emotion. “I never knew you were there.”

  “I didn’t know what to make of these feelings. I’d been angry when Gwen chose Alek, but the feelings I had for her were never like the ones I feel for you. And when I freed you from the prison and saw you, it was almost my undoing.”

  I remembered when Kael opened the door to my cell, he refused to touch me. He refused to help me and yelled at me. “I thought it was because you thought I was ugly.” I studied the floor in embarrassment.

  “I tried to ignore it, tried to fight it, tried to let my anger cover my feelings. It didn’t work.” Kael paced back and forth like a caged cat.

  “That explains why you acted like you hated me.” I wrapped my arms around legs and brought my knees up to my chin.

  “I’ve never hated you. I’ve tried to warn you away from me, thinking that you were better off without me. But I’m a selfish person, Thalia. I don’t think you’re better off without me. In fact, I know how much you need me. No one could protect you better than I can. And I don’t want anyone else to try.”

  I took in his battered appearance and felt a flood of guilt. He was wounded because of me; he was injured saving me.

  “I returned home for two reasons: to ask for forgiveness and to inform them that I intend to take you as my wife. They wouldn’t approve of you without a test of your worthiness.” He smirked. “You must have done well enough because Alba found me and threatened to strike my name from the family scrolls if I didn’t take you as my lifemate. She said I was to ‘get after you right now,’ because apparently you had already left.”

  Butterflies filled my heart with joy and I felt like I was soaring. He wanted to be with me. He wanted his clan’s approval and I didn’t find the idea terrible. And then I thought of losing Joss and guilt started to bring me off of the temporary cloud I was soaring on. I caught a glimpse of a shadow of my reflection in the mirror across the room. It was too dark to see clearly, but I knew what I would see. One silver eye. My throat closed up and I quickly turned away, feeling ashamed of myself. I didn’t know what was happening to me, and I didn’t want to involve Kael any more than he already was.

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