Finding finn, p.5
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       Finding Finn, p.5

           Lynn Crandall
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from the kiss and rested her head against his chest. The sound of his heart beating in his chest steadied her. Words pushed to be spoken, but she couldn’t let them escape her lips. Not yet. Finn needed time.

  He whispered in her ear. “I think I’m falling for you, Nissa.”

  Without looking up from his chest, she smiled.

  FINN BRUSHED HIS HAIR out of his eyes and spat onto the ground of the sparring rink at the gym. The taste of blood on his lips and pained places in his body weren’t what was driving his anger, tensing his muscles. No, a little blood and a little pain were nothing. The fury building in his gut came from acknowledging that his brother was right.

  “Put up your fists, Finn. This isn’t supposed to be a joke.” He saw his brother’s yellow eyes twinkle while he struggled to hide a smug grin.

  “Shut up, Asher. I’m not laughing.” He raised his gloved fists in front of his face and took a fighting stance. He stood still, allowing a low growl to rumble in his throat. “Oooph!” Asher’s left jab to his stomach ended the growl with a gasp for air. “That’s cheating,” Finn managed to sputter.

  Asher shoved his gloved hands onto his hips. “Cheating? What have I told you, Finn, over and over?”

  “Lots of rules.”

  “Rules?” Asher’s eyes flashed and a degree of satisfaction swelled in Finn’s chest. He’d gotten under his brother’s skin. “Following good techniques, not arbitrary rules, will keep you alive in combat. You must always be ready, never let down your guard. If you do for just one second, your opponent will take that moment to rip out your heart. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that to happen.”

  “Of course I don’t want to die or lose a fight. But I don’t need all this technique stuff. I’m a were-lynx. I have powers. I’m fast.”

  Asher sighed and Finn gritted his teeth. He knew he was letting his brother down, but it didn’t matter. He had to be himself. He didn’t need any help from Asher. He’d had to do without his older brother’s support during his teen years when their parents had sent Asher away at eighteen. Asher had no idea how life was for him after he and Lara left.

  “Yes. You have powers. You have all the heightened senses of a lynx. You’re agile, stealthy. Just as the rest of Casey’s colony members are. And you have superior motor skills and are so fast you can blur. But it’s not enough. You need to train and you need to be disciplined. I can see—”

  Finn slammed his fist into Asher’s face. His brother barely flinched but at least he’d stopped his incessant preaching. “You must always be prepared, bro,” he mocked.

  In a flash, Asher had a headlock on him. Finn gritted his teeth and shimmered. In his lynx form, he twisted in Asher’s grip and instantly leaped on his back, fiercely growling and spitting. Pride welled inside his chest. He’d bested his brother and he’d shifted without missing a beat, which was saying something because his were-bobcat skills were still new to him. Asher should be proud of him, too, but he didn’t look very pleased lying on his back staring up into Finn’s fangs.

  A swift swipe of Asher’s arm was a two-by-four slamming against Finn’s body. He flew across the rink, but he righted himself to land on his feet. A quick shimmer and he stood naked, his workout shorts in pieces on the mat where he’d initially shimmered. “Can’t take a joke, huh?”

  Asher stood and grabbed a towel from the rink’s rope and tossed it to him. “I don’t want to argue with you, Finn. I know you’re a powerful were-cat. But your abilities are new, untested. I don’t want something to happen to you. After all the years you weren’t in my life, I want you to stick around for a good, long while. Not get killed in battle.”

  Finn sputtered. “There are no battles. The war with The Nexus Group is over, has been for two years.” He spread his arms wide. “Look around. The community has rebuilt and life is better than before Project Powering caused so much destruction. We’re safe.” He hung his head as the truth of his past and his present reverberated through him. He’d almost lost his cool and killed Demonte a few days ago. “I know I’m new at this life. Don’t you know how hard it is to realize every time I attempt a shimmer it might not work? Or that if I get upset I may spontaneously shimmer at in inappropriate time and alert the humans again of our presence? Or worse, that I may not be able to tame the beast inside me compelled to create chaos and death?”

  Asher nodded. “I don’t know, Finn. It was different for me. I’m amazed you haven’t gone nuts, frankly. But you’re wrong about being safe. You of all people should know how fleeting safety is. Just days ago you became a were-lynx and now your life is in danger from the members of Nissa’s colony. Casey is negotiating with that colony to resolve the issue that she’s not returning to them and that we have four of their members. But it’s very fragile and they’re unreasonable. They’re hostile.”

  Finn’s gut wrenched into tight knots. He knew, all right. He just didn’t want to think about it. “I can handle those cats.”

  Asher glared. “Okay, let’s say you can. But you forget that human history tells us it is unwise for were-cats to let down our guard and sit back and relax. Anything different represents a threat to humans and they will respond with fear and violence. You need to be prepared with everything you have, not just expect to be stronger, faster, and more adept at controlling danger. It’s why the ancient rules forbid exposure of our true identities and why,” he leaped across the mat and made out to punch Finn, “we train.”

  He feinted and avoided the hit. “Don’t press your luck. I’m twenty-two, you’re twenty-five, you old man. Anything you can do, I can do better.” The look on Asher’s face, his trademark half-grin, told him his brother wasn’t fazed.

  “Oh, yeah?” Asher started dancing around him, shadow-boxing and laughing. “Let’s go another round and see if you stand behind your bravado … without shimmering.”

  “Boys, boys.” Kennedy walked in from the locker room, grabbing Finn’s attention. He didn’t want to ogle his brother’s fiancé, but she was hard to ignore. Though slender and beautiful, beneath the attractive exterior was a powerful were-lynx. “Who’s winning?” she asked as Asher took advantage of the distraction to drive a jab into his chin. “Whoa, Finn, you left yourself wide open. Want me to show you some moves?”

  Finn moaned. “You, too, Kennedy? It’s not enough that my brother bests me, his fiancé wants a go at me as well?”

  Kennedy crossed her arms across her chest. “You think because I’m a woman I can’t win a sparring round? You silly were-bobcat.” She pursed her lips sweetly, but Finn heard a growl roll in her throat, and vivid images of her were-lynx power hammered his heart.

  “I know better than that, Kennedy. Besides, I’m done for the day.” He held the towel close to his body, keenly aware of his nakedness under the towel and ducked under the ropes heading to the locker room for a quick shower and clothes.

  Finn stood facing his reflection in the mirror and tried to see deep inside him where his bobcat self lurked. The face in the mirror was his face, nothing like his fur-covered other face. Golden eyes rimmed in brown did nothing to give him away, either. They looked back at him as though nothing had changed. He was still Finn, the youngest of his two brothers and sister.

  But he was not the same. Not since that day he’d been bitten. That day seemed years ago. Working in the lab seemed ages ago. The thought heavied his heart. He’d been forced off track, but his brother’s life still depended on him. He grabbed his phone from the locker and called Kendall.

  “Hi, Finn.”

  “Hi.” The weakness in his brother’s voice clenched his heart. “Sorry I haven’t been in touch in a few days. Something unexpected happened. How are your symptoms?”

  Kendall cleared his throat. “Finn, whatever happens to me, I’m grateful for all you’ve done. I probably should start thinking about telling Mom and Dad and Lara.” His voice trailed off in a strained whisper.

  “Kendall, I’m not going to let you die. You hang on. I need you, man.” His voice broke. He
struggled to compose himself. “You rest. I’ll talk to you later.”

  Finn slammed his fist into the wall, breaking off chunks of plaster and wood. He walked into the shower, appreciating every drop of water slushing over his body. The Finn he’d been was gone. He wasn’t ever going to be that guy again. It was a hard truth but he knew coming to grips with that was his only way forward. And forward he must go in order to achieve success in his lab and save his brother’s life.

  STUDYING CELLS UNDER A MICROSCOPE, Nissa sensed before she heard and smelled Finn in the building. Knowing he was on his way sent shivers rolling through her body. His scent was fresh but all Finn, the were-cat.

  “Hey,” he said, bursting into the room. “You beat me here.” He dropped his briefcase and stepped up to Nissa. The brush of his skin against her arm instantly warmed her. “How are you?”

  “Better now.” His eyes glittered and he bent his head to kiss her. His lips gently brushed hers, then he opened his mouth and darted his tongue into meet hers.

  Heaven, she thought.

  He pulled back and sat on the stool beside her at a lab table. “I’ve been thinking about MGMW. We’ve isolated the mutated gene receptor.”

  “Yeah, weeks ago. Did you find something new?” Hope dared to lift its head.

  He nodded, thoughtful. “We also
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