Warrior by Joanne Wadsworth
To love and protect…across worlds.
Eighteen-year-old Hope Wincrest calls the Outback of Australia her home away from home. She is a princess of Dralion from the planet Magio, where the two leading nations are at war. While in the Outback, Hope is warned by her warrior father–who holds the prophetic ability of forethought–that she is about to meet an enemy protector. She doesn’t expect him to be her soul-bound mate, a man she must now work with to piece together her unknown mother’s lost heritage.
Peacio’s Silas Carver follows the calling of his soul to Australia, only not all goes as planned. Discovering Hope is his mate has him demanding his release from their bond. She agrees, but only if he first helps her learn about her mother.
Hope must lay her life in Silas’s hands during a journey which takes them deep into foreign lands. Waging a battle of the heart, and of the land, can the young mated pair find their place with each other?
A Lyrical Press Young Adult Fantasy
All rights reserved, Lyrical Press, Inc.
“Hope, I know you’re hurting.” Goldwyn Wincrest, my aunt, strode beside me along the path to the horse corral.
I kicked at the red outback dust underfoot. “I can’t stand my existence being kept from my own mother. All these years, she’s believed me dead.”
My father, Alexo Wincrest, was reuniting with my mother, Kate, right now, and had forbidden my return to Dralion.
“But Alexo’s trying to fix things, to build a relationship with Kate after eighteen years of separation. We need to give him the time he’s asked for.” Argh, how could Goldie be so reasonable when, at nineteen, she was only a year older than me?
“My own mother’s a mystery to me, as is the sister I’ve gained along with her. How on earth do I have a twin? I need answers.” Even as I understood it, I detested Dad’s request.
“Lieska’s been scouting for us. She contacted me telepathically and said she has news. Let’s wait on her.”
“Alexo never taught me to sit idly by. I can’t believe I must.”
“It’s what he’s asked.” Goldie kept stride beside me. “Alexo had to protect your mother and sister’s whereabouts from Donaldo since the day he brought you home as a baby. It was not an easy task, but it was done.”
I unclipped the gate and waited as she came through. “My father has forethought and forewarning. Alexo should know I won’t sit still.”
“You must.” She tipped her black Stetson back and eyed me. “He’s asked you to wait before meeting your mother and sister. There’ll be a good reason. He sees the bigger picture, Hope.”
“What I wouldn’t give to have his prophetic abilities, or any of the strength skills of our people.”
“Just be glad Donaldo Wincrest doesn’t have Alexo’s skill of forethought and forewarning, because as much as I love my father, we’d all be in trouble if he did.” Her breath whistled out.
Donaldo, my grandfather, ruled our home land of Dralion with precision and determination. My mother, Kate, had been of Earth, and even though she was Dad’s soul-bound mate, she was not a skilled Magioling. Donaldo would never have allowed her for his son had the prince brought her home.
A shiver chased down my spine, even as the sun blazed high above. By leaving her behind on Earth, Dad had sought my mother’s protection. She had remained safe, but at what expense?
A light breeze swirled. The displacement in the air had to be Lieska. I needed answers and Lieska was a warrior, close to our age. A trusted confidant.
Her form wavered into view and solidified a few feet away. Yes.
Lieska stepped forward, brushing the dust from her hip-hugging leather pants.
“What news do you bring?” I burned to know.
“I come from the trenches.” She shoved her fingers underneath her dark hair and swished it. A smattering of dried nettles fluttered to the ground, one leaf catching in the spiked belt on her side, which held a curved dagger.
“Peacio?” I froze. Carlisio Loveria, along with his fighting force of protectors, ruled Peacio. “What’s the land of our enemy got to do with finding out more about my mother and sister?”
“Kate Sol. That’s your mother’s name. Your sister’s is Faith. Bad news, that one.” She sighed raggedly. “I’ve seen Faith with Davio Loveria. In Peacio. Obviously not the place I expected to find her, but I tracked her from Dralion.”
“What?” Dad would never allow such a thing. He had not hidden my mother and sister for eighteen years just to allow my sister to be with Carlisio’s grandson. That would be like throwing her to the lions. “That’s outrageous. Why would my sister be in Peacio with him?”
With a firm shake of her head, Lieska said, “Your sister is soul-bound to Davio Loveria. I’ve spied them together and can assure you I speak the truth. It is a complication your father has clearly foreseen.”
“Tell me you lie. This can’t be.”
The mated bond was revered, but this had to be a cruel joke. We had not had a mated match between our people and theirs in forty years. Not since enchanter Gilles Moyer spelled the dome, the energy field over Dralion protecting our people from Peacians.
My heart lurched.
Goldie stared at me. “If that’s the case, Donaldo can never know of this. To discover his newly returned granddaughter is mated to his enemy would take our war to new levels.”
“You are right.” Lieska nodded. “I’ve spoken to Alexo, and he protects this knowledge. It is one of the reasons he makes Hope wait. He has asked me to speak of his current needs with both of you.”
I raised a brow. “Continue. Tell me all he’s requested.”
She stroked the polished hilt of her dagger. “Faith holds forethought and the battle skills as your father does. She is a telepathic and can ’port. She moves freely, as all warriors and Wincrests do through the dome room. Faith’s rising is complete, and along with it came the ability of mind-merge, a skill we’ve no historical records of. Alexo has a specific request.”
I inhaled, slowly. One of my passions was the study of our people’s strength skills. I worked here on this outback station, and when on our home world of Magio, spent a great deal of time documenting all I could. “Mind-merge doesn’t flow through the Wincrest line and my mother is an Earthling.”
Lieska eyed me. “Unless she is not.”
The wind picked up, swirling the dust at my feet. “What do you know?”
“Your sister’s ability of mind-merge has come from your mother’s line. Alexo has had forewarning. You’ll soon get close to a protector, and when you do, find a way to piece together all you can on Kate Sol’s line. You must do this without giving yourself away to your sister, as the protector in question knows her. It’s imperative you and Faith not yet meet.”
“That’s all he gave you? The unknown skill of mind-merge and Kate Sol’s full name?”
“You must discover the rest, for there is nothing more he can do from Dralion.”
“Great.” How was I to get close to a protector? “Did he have any advice, even a smidgeon more?”
“It’s not advice. He said he loses sight of you for a few days, but it’s what needs to happen. He told me you must rely on those around you. Not all is as it seems.”
“What? Alexo never loses sight of me with his skill, unless I’m in the dark. How can I be in the dark?”
“He didn’t like that piece of his forewarning either, but it’s what needs to be. His words.”
Goldie squeezed my arm. “I’m concerned, particularly about this protector you’re going to get close to. We don’t associate with our enemy, not unless there’re swords and bloodshed involved.”
Dad had seen more than he’d spoken of. “Obviously I’ll need to carry a weapon.”
Lieska unstrapped a knife from a sheath on her calf. “Your father said you would not be harmed, but take it.”
I lifted the cuff of my blue jeans, and strapped the band of warm leather above my ankle. Slotting the blade carefully into place, I resolved to see to his instructions. I would not let him down.
Goldie crossed her arms. “This is why the Wincrests rule Dralion. We do what we must.”
Lieska fisted her hands. “Yes, and Alexo asked me to speak to Guy next. Our young enchanter has made his own arrangement with Faith since he spotted her in Peacio. Alexo needs Guy to know he’s heard of his talk with Faith, and he expects him to keep quiet on all he’s discovered about her being mated with Loveria. No word of any of this can get back to Donaldo. Faith’s mated relationship took with Loveria before her ties to Alexo were known. Now their soul-bond cannot be undone. Even the Loveria family keeps quiet.”
Horses whinnied from the corrals and Goldie checked over her shoulder. “Guy’s here somewhere. Probably with Maslin in the stables. Give me any further updates the moment they come to hand. With Davio Loveria mated to my new niece, and a protector soon coming into contact with Hope, we need to take the utmost care.”
“Certainly.” Lieska turned to me and set her hands on my shoulders. “I told Alexo I would keep an eye on you, but he said you’ll handle what’s coming. Make sure you do. You do not have any strength skills.”
“I promise I’ll take care.” My eighteenth birthday had passed a few short weeks ago, and no skills had come as I’d entered adulthood.
Her fingers pressed deeper, smearing dirt on my red-checked outback shirt. “I have confidence in you.”
“Thank you, and for all the information you’ve given me.”
“Do not thank me too soon. You are to meet a protector.” With a nod, she stepped back, teleporting away.
“Argh.” Goldie shivered. “I do not care for the thought of you coming into contact with one of the enemy, yet I can’t argue against Alexo’s forethought. Your father is a menace though, with his prophecies and allowing them to unravel as they should.”
I smiled. “Perhaps I’m supposed to kill the protector once I’ve seen to this discovery of Kate Sol’s line.”
Goldie chuckled. “Make sure you do.”
My grin widened and I set my thumbs into the loops of my jeans. “They are a thorn in our sides. If we had Carlisio Loveria’s land, imagine how much more prosperous Dralion and our people would be.”
As we passed under a towering stand of eucalyptus trees Goldie linked her arm through mine. A touch of shade relieved the oppressive heat for a second. Drought was killing this land.
“How I would love a slice of Peacio. We would actually have grass to feed our cattle. Even this off-world station suffers as our lands at home do.”
Once the rains came, we’d return our stock numbers to full force on this massive Australian outback holding. “It’s fortunate we have the mighty river bordering this land, and Maslin’s water skill.”
Maslin, a warrior two years older than me, had earned my respect. He moved large quantities of water during the river’s release periods and sent it further infield. With just a flick of his fingers and a thought, it flowed and soaked into the ground, bringing life to the river pasture and sustaining it for our remaining stock.
Tucking one loose blue shirttail into her black jeans, Goldie eyed the red plains that ran forever into the distance. “I love this place. When it finally rains, I’m going to roll around in the fields. All of them.”
“That won’t be possible. There’re eight-thousand square miles out there.”
She flicked my arm. “It doesn’t matter how long it takes me. So much space will make the task all the more enjoyable.”
We walked alongside the high-railed wooden corral. Saunder, the thirteen-year-old nephew of two of our station’s warriors, offered a treat to the stallion hitched to an inner holding post. Two years ago, Peacio’s protectors had taken Saunder’s father at the battle of Eventide. Without either of his parents, he’d chosen his uncles to raise him. The child was one of the few allowed outside Dralion who was not a Wincrest or a warrior.
Goldie opened the corral gate and grinned at Saunder. She crossed to him and ruffled his messy brown hair. “I see you’ve saddled our boy. Does he want a run?”
“I knew you’d be down soon.” He gave her a lopsided smile, plucking his fingers through suspenders holding up his loose, long-legged pants. The boy adored Goldie.
Bumping my shoulder into Saunder’s, I winked. “You should be doing your schoolwork. Your father would expect it if he were here.” We adored our children, ensuring their immediate and extended family raised them, usually within Dralion’s villages. Yet Saunder had asked to come here, and his wishes couldn’t be denied.
“I have to help feed the mares first. My uncles asked me to.”
“I’ll take this one from you then.” Goldie reached for the stallion’s leads.
“Thanks.” Saunder passed them across then raced out the gate.
Holding a hand to my chest, I wished for all the world Saunder had his father back. I’d never handle losing my own. I loved my dad, and I cherished our close bond. Which was why, deep down, his decision to keep my existence a secret hurt, no matter his reasoning.
“You’re wanted, and loved.” Goldie’s gaze softened as she crooned to the huge chestnut stallion.
The wind tickled my hair about my face. “Are you talking to him or me?”
“Both of you.” The stallion lifted his sleek head, pushing into Goldie’s hand as she petted him. “Although he listens better.”
Coming around in front, I dug into my pocket and pulled out a bite-sized treat, which I was never without. “Here, boy. Hope loves you more. Don’t you forget that.”
Dropping his nose into my palm, he gobbled the treat. I scratched between his silky ears. We had two-hundred breeding mares, and this stallion loved them all. “Maslin said you’ll be seeing the girls tomorrow. I know you’re looking forward to that.”
Knocking his muzzle into my shoulder, the stallion let out a throaty snicker. Oh, he knew exactly of what I spoke.
Goldie laughed. “Now that we have Lieska’s information, the facts surrounding Alexo’s decision to bring your mother home to Dralion makes more sense.”
I scuffed my boot along the dusty ground. “She’s not an Earthling as he’s always thought. That means I’m full-blooded.” Donaldo had never held my Halfling status over my head, for in his eyes I was innocent of my birth. Yet we all knew what he expected of my father. For years Donaldo had demanded Alexo choose another. If my grandfather could have found my mother and removed her from the equation, he would have. My sister was highly skilled, which meant the mated bond had prevailed and the line continued. Knowing Kate was a Magioling must be the sweetest news for Donaldo.
I stroked the stallion’s neck. Only half our people discovered they were soul-bound, but I wanted the strength of the commitment. Goldie did too. We’d spoken of it often. “I want the mated bond because I know how precious it is.”
Goldie’s gaze roamed the horizon where Rocky Ledge ascended. The Ledge, a massive red rock sitting on the plains, ran as far as the eye could see with a vivid blue, cloudless sky above. “You don’t have feelings for any other. That’s a good sign you’re mated.”
“My poor sister though.” I set a shaky hand to my chest as I traced the scar I’d had since birth. I hated remembering that time and this mark was a firm reminder of the tragedy of my birth.
Of my death.
Of the doctor’s scalpel which had cut my skin.
To protect my mother, Dad had said very little over the years. I’d gone into surgery, and the physician had done all he could to restart my heart, but my life had ended before it had even begun, right here on Earth.
Goldie hugged me, covering my hand. “Don’t think about it. You’re a survivor. You died the day you were born, but today you live. Give Alexo what he’s asked for. His wife never expected to see him again, and when she finds out about you…”
Neither of us knew her, or how she would react, but going by Dad’s request I remain away, more than just the discovery of Kate Sol’s family line was afoot.
With a sigh, Goldie released me then set her booted foot in the stirrup. “I’ll take this one for a run. While I do that, you check on Saunder and make sure he gets to his tutor.” She hoisted herself into the saddle, the leather creaking as she settled. “I believe Maslin said he was going to take some of the men with him down to the river for today’s flooding. He wants some of the cattle moved. We have a station to run. Let’s get to it.”
I stepped out of her way as the stallion pawed at the ground. She rode out the gate, and off.
Hanging over the top of the half-beamed railings, I studied the land. Wincrest Station grazed thirty-five thousand head of cattle, although we were somewhat shy of that with the current drought. Dralion meanwhile, several times the size of this nation, housed a massive desert, along with isolated snow-capped mountains and boggy rainforests. Great areas of inhospitable land forced us to build our villages only around the far reaches of the coastline. The cattle we reared and the horses we bred on this station provided for those back home.
Goldie and her horse soon became a speck in the distance and my thoughts returned to my sister, mated to Davio Loveria.
What I wouldn’t give to have even one-tenth of Peacian soil under Wincrest control. It was rich and fertile land and always beyond our reach. Huh, insufferable Loverias.
I jumped down, and a small cloud of red dust plumed at my feet.
Endless red dirt.
It worked its way into every fiber of our clothing, our hair and our skin.
Still, I loved this land and work called. I walked to the long run of white weatherboard stables, and cupped my hands to my mouth. “Hey, Saunder.”
Inside the wide central holding room, the area was clear. On one wall, hooks held saddles and tack. On the opposite, square bales of hay had been stacked to the ceiling. Nope, no Saunder here.
Out the back door, the fenced yard housed mares and their gangly-legged foals. They swished their tails, swatting at the buzzing flies.
Further along, a man stood with one leg hooked on the lowest railing. The sunshine highlighted short, red-gold twists of curls cut close to his head.
Who was that?
Sometimes warriors came who I didn’t know. This one wore the dark leathers and belted side-sword of our highly battle-trained, his height matching our tallest men.
I licked my lips, my gaze traveling down his body. His worn, black leather vest stretched over broad shoulders. The tails of his loose white shirt fluttered from under his vest.
Wow. I fanned myself and plucked the front of my shirt away from my heated skin. He was one gorgeous specimen I’d like to get my hands on.
“Hello there. May I help you?” I certainly hoped I could.
He lifted his head, slowly turning to look my way. His eyes were to die for, a blue as deep as the ocean with softer specks intermingled. I could have drowned in those eyes.
“What are you doing here, Faith? Why are you not with Davio?” The paler flecks blinked out.
Drat. He couldn’t be a warrior. This must be the protector Dad had warned me of, the one who knew my sister. He was here, already.
Every muscle in my body tightened. The dagger weighted my ankle.
He set one hand over his sword, and his nostrils flared. “No, you’re not Faith.” He stepped forward to tower over me, inspecting me from head to foot. “I feel– Damn.”
Yep, a spark of recognition lit his eyes.
“What’s your name?” He circled me, his body only a breath away.
“Hope.” Strangely, I felt calm. Heck, how was that possible?
Frustration flickered in his eyes. “I feel the pull of the mated bond. With you. You are the reason I’m here.”
No. No. No.
My fingernails scraped my palms. “You’re on Wincrest Station.”
A fast breath whistled out from between his lips. “Then we’re in a world of trouble.”
Shaking out my hands, I stamped my feet. I could deal with this. Dad had asked me to figure out where Kate Sol was from. “What’s your name?”
“Silas Carver and I don’t intend to stay. You’re a Wincrest, the last person I would ever wish to bond with.”
I snorted. “I have no desire to join with a protector. You’re safe from me.”
“Perfect.” His gaze drilled me to the spot. “Clearly your sister doesn’t know about you. I would have heard about a twin.”
“She doesn’t, and mustn’t.”
His lips twitched. “That’s a deal. This thing between us–” He motioned with his hand back and forth. “–isn’t going to work. I certainly have no intention of mentioning you.”
“Good, so I think it’s an easy call to say we give this up, right now.”
“Absolutely.” I gave him a firm nod then remembered Dad’s wishes.
“Um, no. Not right now.”
He tapped one booted foot on the ground. “Would you care to explain why?”
A second passed. Two.
“My father is Alexo Wincrest.”
“I know who your father is. I believe we’ve already covered my knowledge of Faith.”
“Right.” I glanced at the ground then back at him. “I’ve bad news. Alexo told me of your coming. He has forewarning.”
A tic pulsed in his jaw. “He didn’t tell you to run hard and fast? In the other direction? Because I have no intention of mating with a Wincrest. My cousin Davio has.”
“Davio’s your cousin?” Hmm, interesting.
“Not for long. I’m disowning him. He comes with too many problems, the worst, your sister.” Contradiction lit his eyes.
“You’re lying.” Those mated to each other couldn’t speak a falsehood without the other knowing. Neither could they hurt each other, not when their souls were bound.
He lifted his shoulders and let them drop. “I figure I’ll be renouncing him fairly soon. That better?”
I smiled, seeing the truth. “I believe we can work together.”
“We’re going to end this now.”
“Sorry, no can do.”
“I’ll start with the words of release.”
I linked my hands behind my back. “I’m not going to agree to your release, yet.”
“We’ll wish each other well, and be on our way. You can find another man, and it’ll be my pleasure to see you do so.”
I frowned. “Your hearing is bad, Silas Carver.”
“Give me your approval to do the same.” Still not listening.
“That’s not going to happen, not when I need your aid.”
“Perhaps we speak a different language.”
“Nope. I hear you just fine. My mother’s name is Kate Sol. You know Faith, and I do not. Apparently, I need your help. You must tell me what you know and of my sister’s newfound skill of mind-merge. Leave nothing out.”
“Seriously?” The deepest lines marred his brow. “I don’t agree, and this conversation is going in circles. To release each other, you must accept my words. You may find another man of your own choosing. In fact, I insist.”
He was stubborn, but then so was I. “Nah-ah. You are my country’s enemy, but as my mated one, not mine. Help me with my assigned task, and then I’ll let you go.”
“I would have to be an idiot to do so.”
I slapped his shoulder. “Great. I can live with you being an idiot. It won’t be for long.”
“Why is it Wincrests do not listen? You are as bad as your sister.”
“Oh, now tell me of her.” I clapped. “Everything. Don’t forget her ability of mind-merge.”
“As long as we make this quick, but Alexo Wincrest knows her existence is tied to Davio’s. Twenty-four hours ago we discovered it’s a deadly skill, one which is night-night for her if she’s kept from my cousin for more than three days.”
“Hell. I had no idea. Are you certain it’s deadly? This is the worst news.”
Bracing himself with a hand on the fence rail, he nodded. “We’re certain. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you.”
I stepped closer, the toes of my boots touching his. “Tell me more. Once I know all you do, I can release you from our bond. I wouldn’t ask you to remain mated to me except for this. If my sister has a deadly skill, you mustn’t hold back. I’ve been charged with discovering all I can.”
He grabbed my shoulders and I shivered at the delicious contact. It was expected, even though unwanted. He was my mate, the one my soul was bound to.
“Your sister survived the ordeal by mere minutes upon her return to Davio. She was gone for three days to Dralion and suffered physically while she was away. She must be in the same room as him to mind-merge, and without this connection, her body shut down. I witnessed the deterioration myself.” His blue gaze held mine, his hands warming my skin. “Her lungs filled with blood and she almost bled to death before my eyes. It was a gruesome sight. Once she merged, it took hours for her fast-healing ability to restore her. I would never wish to witness such a thing again.”
“I can’t imagine all you speak of, but I know it’s true. Continue, please.”
“When your sister mind-merges with my cousin, it’s not something she can hold back. Other than this, there’s nothing more I can tell you. You should go to your father for more. He is aware.”
I focused on those words as they left his mouth. Dad would know all of this because of his forethought. His request was not all it seemed. “I need more time to hear what you have to say.”
He stroked to the edges of my shoulders. “No. The mated bond builds fast and we can’t allow that to happen.”
It was Saunder. I spun around.
Silas withdrew his sword.
“No. He’s just a boy.” I stayed him with a hand on his chest. “Oh.” I flushed. That was one hard chest. Like rock hard.
Saunder bounced out and raced across with a wide grin. “There’s a mare in labor. One of the warriors is with her, but he told me to come and get you.” He glanced at Silas. “I’m sorry, sir. I don’t mean to interrupt, but the mare carries the strongest line.”
Silas moved forward. “Hope is busy with me at present. You’ll need to excuse her.”
Yes, I had to focus on getting Silas to stay with me, or at least, not to leave me yet. I needed whatever information he held. I met Saunder’s gaze. “I can’t come right now, although I wish I could. Could you grab one of your uncles for me?”
“Great.” I turned him by the shoulders and nudged him toward the stables. “Go now.”
He hurried away.
Taking Silas’s hand, I pulled him along the side of the building. We needed somewhere quiet to speak. I hadn’t noticed at first glance he was a protector, but the warriors about likely would.
“Where are we going?”
I pointed to the sprawling earth-toned, brick homestead on the hill. It was a magnificent structure, one of Earth’s designs with three floors and a wide wraparound porch. Darkened glass kept the harshest of the sun’s rays at bay. “See the corner balcony on the top floor? That’s my room. Can you zap us there?”
“Whoa, your bedroom?”
I patted his chest. “Ah, yes.” Oh boy, such hard flesh he had there. “There’ll be no distractions.”
“No distractions in a bedroom?” He groaned. “Perhaps I do have idiot stamped across my forehead?”
“No.” I smiled. “But that can be arranged if you’d like.”
Rolling his eyes, he grasped my arms. “We keep our distance. This is going to be one fast conversation then I leave.”
Everything darkened as he jumped through space, and a second later, we stood on the balcony outside my room. He reached for the glass door and slid it open.
White lace curtains blew out and I scooped up the folds and tucked them back as I entered. “Thanks for coming.”
He snorted a laugh. “Yeah, funny.” Striding across the snowy carpet to the far wall, he eyed my bed. Made of New Zealand rimu, the posts smooth and round rose to the ceiling. A white netting canopy trickled over the edges, ready to be drawn down at night. Turning toward me, he leaned one hip against the headboard, as far from me as the room allowed. “You wanted to talk. Let’s get this over with.”
I tapped my chin. Hmm.
“Why aren’t you speaking?”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Say see you later, Silas. I agree we never lay eyes on each other again.” He rolled a hand in a continuing motion. “I can’t wait to hear that.”
“Silas.” I crossed the room toward him and he sidestepped, knocking against my bedside table. A framed photograph of my first ride on this station tipped and he caught it as it fell.
In the picture, I’d been three years old, my short legs flapping over the sides of Dad’s dark leather saddle. A far-too-big Stetson on my head had threatened to wobble off, although the grin on my face said it all.
“You like horses?” His gaze moved from the picture to me.
Unable to help myself, I crept closer. “I love them. Do you?”
“Yes. I’ve been riding since I could walk. Even coming into my ability to ’port hasn’t stopped me from riding every chance I get.” He replaced the photo. “How’d you come to be with Wincrest when Faith was raised by her mother?”
“There’s no easy way to say it.” I teared up, because the memories had resurfaced today.
“Hey.” He caressed my arm, making my skin tingle. “I make a great listener, even though it doesn’t appear that way.”
“I died at birth, is what happened. My father brought me home to bury me, and as he did, my heart restarted from the teleportation jump. He called the healers and notified Donaldo. My father would never jeopardize my mother’s safety, so I remained with him. There’s likely more to it, but I don’t know the finer details. They’ve never been spoken of.”
He pulled in a deep breath, his chest rising. “You look well now.”
“The healers who saw to me were the best.”
Sliding his hand around mine, he wrapped his fingers tight. “I can’t push you to release me from our bond, but you must know it has to be done. Do you feel what I do?”
“Yes.” I sighed, wanting to know more about him. “You’re adamant then, you won’t help me?”
“The bond builds.” He stroked my palm with his thumb. “Fast. We can’t allow it. I’ve told you all I know and I can’t think of anything else.”
I closed my eyes at the truth he’d uttered.
Think. Even I saw we had to end this if I had all his information. “There’ll be one condition. I’d like one man’s release for another’s, Saunder’s father.”
“You mean the boy from the stables? His father?”
“Yes, Tawson Rivera was taken at the battle of Eventide two years ago. If you free him, I’ll free you. That’s my deal.”
He gave a low growl, which made me jump. “If you agree, I’ll give you what you want. I do this for the child.”
“I can see that.” He dropped my hand. “Which is hard to argue with.”
“Silas, I grew up without one of my parents and I understand how Saunder feels. If it’s within my power to see his father returned, I have to. Those are my terms. They’re quick and precise, and you’ll have what you want from me in the end.”
His gaze narrowed. “What about your request for my aid. We both understand no more will occur?”
“Of course, and I keep my word once given. I will release you.”
He inhaled, deeply. “I’ll go speak with Carlisio and return with his decision.” Bending his head, he gave me a short bow. “Take care, my mate.”
His mate? Not for much longer. “You too.”
So fast, he flashed away.
My mated one had left.
I swept my hand through the air where he’d been, my heart a heavy weight in my chest.
This moment hurt.