Authors: Lacey Thorn
Tags: #Awakening Pride
“In a cabin of sorts,” she whispered, closing her eyes and feeling as if she were right back there, experiencing it all again. “I went to him. I felt him slipping away from me.”
“Did you know he was your mate?” Tah asked.
“Yes,” she murmured. “I placed my hands on his stomach. There was so much blood there, more than anywhere else on him. I saw the cut. I knew it was deep. I tried to stop the bleeding, but I couldn’t. He was dying.”
“Were you injured?” Gideon asked.
“A few cuts and bruises. Nothing like him. He was…broken. They’d…done things to him. The marks, the blood, so much blood.”
“Why did you leave him?” Diane demanded. “When my mate’s life was on the line, I knew I’d give anything to keep him safe. Why did you leave Finn when he needed you most?”
“He died. I swear. I felt him slip away from me. I felt him die, and it nearly broke me. His bleeding grew sluggish. His heart—” Her voice broke on a sob that she struggled to hold in. “His heart stopped beating. I gave him a kiss and forced myself to go. I didn’t…” She shook her head and wiped furiously at the tears streaming down her cheeks. “I left to continue my search for a missing girl.”
“Did you find her?” Tah asked softly.
“Yes. I found her and two others, both males. I was able to help them.”
“I need to check a few things,” Gideon said. “I’m going to grab the Professor and go over this with him. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“I’ll go with you,” Diane said.
“Me, too,” Abby agreed before heading to her mate. Tah stood when she crossed to him. “I’m going to leave Regan with you.”
Tah wrapped Abby in his arms and pulled her close, dropping a kiss on her lips despite everyone who stood there. So much love radiated between the two. Laura wanted that with her mate. She could only pray she hadn’t destroyed any chance of it.
“She’ll be fine. Her two godfathers are both here, as well,” Tah said.
Abby laughed. “She already has the lot of you wrapped around her finger. You guys spoil her rotten. You don’t have to jump every time she whimpers.”
“Yes, we do,” Logan retorted. “I’ll slay all the dragons. Every princess has a guard. We’re hers.”
Laura remembered a time when she was little, maybe six. Logan would have been fourteen. She’d had a nightmare and refused to go back to bed until her dad checked for monsters. Her father had belittled her and ordered her back to bed. She’d gone back upstairs and sat quietly outside her door, crying as softly as she could. Logan had walked over, scooped her up and swung her onto his back. Then he’d gone in and checked every inch of her room. He’d also stayed with her, vowing to slay any dragons that might come after her in her dreams.
“You were always good at slaying dragons,” she admitted and saw the surprise on his face at her words.
He didn’t say anything, maybe sensing her chaotic emotions and not wanting to upset this new turn. Gabriel nodded at her, and a smile ghosted across his lips. Her life was such a mess right now. A mate who wasn’t a mate, a brother she wasn’t sure of, a friend she’d wounded earlier with her display of temper. Hell, after what she’d done with Finn, she wouldn’t be surprised if she was asked to leave. She wouldn’t blame them either.
“Laura,” Tah called her name, and she blinked, realizing Abby, Diane and Gideon had left while she’d been lost in thought.
“I’m so sorry,” she swore.
“No one blames you for what happened,” he vowed. “We’re just confused. Finn lost his memory and wasn’t able to tell us anything. You didn’t share because you thought your mate was dead. I imagine you were grieving.”
She had been. She’d felt broken inside, caring little whether she lived or died, and as Gabriel had mentioned earlier, her actions had shown it. She’d taken huge risks and almost wound up killed. If Gabriel hadn’t come after her, if he’d stayed with Kenzie, Laura would have died. Yet, she’d thrown the fact he’d left his mate in Gabriel’s face earlier. She was a menace.
“Do you think Finn will ever forgive me?” Laura asked.
“I think there are a lot of things mates can deal with and still come out okay.” Reno’s mate, Amia, was the one to answer. She rose from her seat and crossed to where Laura stood. “There’s a reason the two of you are fated to be together. Trust in that.”
Laura nodded, though in all honesty, she wasn’t sure what she trusted anymore.
“I need to head back into town,” Daniel interrupted. He hugged Laura close, kissing her brow. “You’re going to be okay. Promise. Just hang in there.”
She nodded, soaking up his warmth.
“Any more information on those files you found?” Tah asked him.
“Still looking into them,” Daniel answered, continuing to hold her close. “I’ll let you know as soon as I know anything.”
“What files?” Laura asked, greedy for a distraction.
“Ones we came across while going through Dad’s stuff,” Daniel said. “I was planning to show you but haven’t had time yet.”
Because she’d been a coward. First, she’d hidden from Logan, not wanting to see her brother, much less talk to him. Now, it was Finn.
“What’s so interesting about them?” she asked.
“It’ll be easier if you look at them,” Gabriel said. “I’ll bring them over first thing tomorrow. See if you can figure out any of it. Most of it is written in some type of code. Dates, numbers and letters. He had them all in a safe we didn’t even know he had.”
“They must be important then,” Laura said.
“We’ll get it figured out,” Daniel said. “You should head home. Have Gabriel walk you over. Get some rest.” He ran his thumb under her eye where she knew the circles had grown darker with each restless night.
“I don’t need anyone to walk me to my house. I know where it is, and I’ll be perfectly safe getting there,” she retorted.
“Don’t take any chances,” Daniel said.
“I’ll walk her,” Gabriel said. “We can walk out with you.”
“Going home sounds like a great idea,” Tah said. “Just make sure you stay there. I’d feel better if you didn’t go looking for Finn on your own. He’ll be back when he’s ready. Give him the time to link with his beast and create the bond needed.”
“I’ll wait for him to come to me,” she promised.
“Laura,” Tah called as she turned to leave.
She faced him once more and lifted a brow in question.
“No matter what happens between the two of you, you’re still a member of this pride. I don’t want you to think otherwise,” he told her.
“Thank you,” she whispered, afraid she might break down and cry in front of them. She clutched the hand Daniel held out to her as if it were a lifeline and followed him out the door and down the hall toward the front door.
She and Gabriel stood by Daniel’s county sheriff’s car. Daniel looked around, and she knew who he was looking for though he never said a word.
“Are you okay?” she asked softly.
“I’m fine,” he said with a smile. “You just concentrate on making sure you are.”
She nodded and gave Daniel a peck on the cheek.
“I’ll see you later in the morning,” Gabriel told Daniel. The two brothers shared a look she was certain had to do with her then Daniel got in his car and pulled away.
“I don’t need you to walk me to my house,” Laura said when she and Gabriel were alone.
“Maybe, I need to,” he said, walking away from her.
They walked in silence for a few beats before Gabriel stopped and turned to stand in front of her. “Do you want this man as your mate?”
She gave him a startled look. “Yes! God, yes! Why would you even ask me a question like that?”
Gabriel snorted. “You never mentioned him. Not even once. Plus you ran as soon as they arrived and didn’t come back until after Finn had left to check in with the Holloways. Then today. Your mate stated for everyone to hear that he planned to rip your throat out.”
,” she emphasized the word, letting him know how much she didn’t appreciate his choice of statement, “because Logan was here and I wasn’t sure I could handle seeing him. I needed time. I had no idea my mate was here, or I would never have walked away. He’s my mate. I didn’t just leave him there to die. I felt him die. I swear it.”
Gabriel nodded. “I don’t know Finn or his brother very well. I do know they’re very close. They share a bond that mirrors the one formed between mates. They can feel each other. It’s how Murphy was able to track and find Finn.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m warning you that, even if you and your mate get through this, Murphy may take longer to win over. And I’m giving you this warning because it’s important that you
win Murphy over. You don’t want to be the barrier that comes between them.”
Laura nodded. “I won’t be. I promise.”
Gabriel brushed her hair behind her ears. “Remember to take care of yourself. Don’t focus so much on your mate, on Murphy or on anyone else to the detriment of yourself. I know there was more that went on when I pulled you out of that last lab. I saw the wounds that were still healing. I know they did something, and if you’re ever going to move past it, you need to tell someone. Me, Daniel, Logan, your mate. Don’t hold it in.”
She nodded again, tears pooling in her eyes as she swallowed the rage that rose to the surface. It would be her mate she told, if he forgave her. She couldn’t keep the truth from her other half.
“Remember one more thing,” Gabriel said.
“I love you. Daniel loves you. Your brother loves you. You’re not in this alone.”
“You’re sure he won’t hurt you?”
“He won’t,” Laura assured him. “Would you ever physically hurt Kenzie? Ever?”
“No,” he barked out. He looked toward her house in the distance. “I’m going to leave you here then. I think you need to make the rest of this trip on your own.”
She’d picked up the scent of her mate as they’d moved closer toward her house. Finn was there, waiting for her. Gabriel must have picked up on it, too. Thank God, he was giving her the chance to meet her mate on her own and not demanding he go with her to protect her. He dropped a kiss on top of her head then turned to head back toward the main house.
“Gabriel,” she called out. He glanced back at her with a brow lifted in question. “I love you, too.”
He smiled, nodded then continued walking, leaving her to venture the rest of the way alone. Her heartbeat increased with every step. If her mate still wanted to rip her throat out, she’d bare it for him. She took a deep breath and mounted the porch steps.
* * * *
Finn had planned to follow his brother, but he couldn’t force himself to leave. Not when he was cocooned in his mate’s scent. It was everywhere, practically permeating from the walls of the house. Despite his brother’s parting words, he knew Murph had brought him here for a reason. That reason was heading this way now. He felt the pull between them as his beast reached for hers. She was here. Laura. His mate. His.
He turned and entered her front room as she opened the front door and stepped inside.
“Finn.” His name was a whisper from her lips, but it hit his chest and almost sent him to his knees. There was pain in her, seeping from every pore. He charged toward her.
“What is it? Who hurt you?” he demanded.
She shook her head, reaching for him with shaky hands but stopping just short of touching him. Her eyes sparkled with tears that began to leak down her cheeks.
“I left you… I didn’t… I couldn’t… I don’t deserve you now. You should hate me.”
Finn stared at her. He felt a lot toward her at the moment, but hate wasn’t a part of it.
“Why did you leave me there?” Finn asked. “Why didn’t you stay with me? Even if you thought it was only to be with me while I died. Why let me die alone?”
Her voice caught on a sob. “I thought I’d lost you. I felt you slipping away from me. I swear I felt you take your last breath, felt your heart stop beating. Your eyes closed, and I felt as if the world crashed down around me. I tore out of there and swore I’d shed as much blood as I could to avenge you.”
“You kissed me,” Finn murmured, and she nodded, her lower lip trembling. “You looked at me and told me you would have loved me. I’ve heard you whisper those words over and over again in my head. Did you mean them?”
“Yes,” she promised. “You’re my mate. My other half. Our love is written in the stars.”
Finn smiled at her choice of words. “Where did you go when you left me?”
“I was searching for another party when I came across the one that had you. A group of hunters had taken a young female. I left as soon as the information came in. I knew there was nothing good planned for her.”
“Did you find her?”
“I did. I managed to save her and the two males being held with her.”
Finn sensed there was more to her story than that, but they’d get back to it later.
“Would you have left me if you’d known I was still alive?”
“I tell myself that I would have. You were in no condition to go with me. I couldn’t sense your animal at all. I knew I had a limited window to get to the girl.” Her watery gaze met his. “That’s not the truth, though. If I’d known you were alive, nothing would have made me leave you. It was only the burning rage of vengeance that got me out of the room in the first place. I don’t blame you if you hate me. I hate myself.”
“You’re my mate,” he whispered. “I don’t think there’s a part of me that would ever be able to hate you.”
“You should,” she swore.
“I thought I was dying, too. I thought you were a hallucination. Then I placed you as an angel.” He reached out and brushed her tears away with his fingers. “There were tears on your cheeks then, too.”
“I’m sorry, Finn. I’m so sorry. If I could go back, I’d never walk away from you.”
“And what would have happened to the woman you saved? Where would she be now? Dead?”
He could tell from the look on her face that more than death had been in store for the woman. It made him wonder about Ariel. He knew she’d been attacked and left for dead, that was when Clara’s Uncle Thomas had found her. Had she suffered something similar? Whatever she’d gone through, no one had been there in time to save her. His mate had been there for the woman she’d helped.