Lucas grunted, telling me that he wasn’t sure it was worth it. As I unfolded the map, he leaned down to take a look.
“What do you think? Do you know where any of this is?”
He ran his hand along the symbols.
I pointed to the central image. “I know this is a mountain, which doesn’t really narrow it down. But this looks like some sort of railway. A train?” I hoped he’d know where it was. The train should narrow the options down a lot.
“Not train tracks. A mine. I think I might know where this is. Vaguely. I know this right here.” He pointed to an icon on the map. “That’s a local waterfall.” Then he traced the track line with a fingertip. “This is the mine entrance, but it’s not connected to this part over here. I’d know it if it were.”
I followed his fingertip. I hadn’t had time to look close while I was in that awful room, but I’d seen the mountain and the train. What I hadn’t noticed was that the map was broken into two parts. A trail led up the mountain, past a waterfall, and to the mine. Then nothing. The next picture showed the exit from the mine into some sort of valley. The temple stood in the center of that valley.
“There’s the exit to the mine shaft here.” I pointed to the left side of the valley. “So they connect. It looks like it must be some sort of secret valley between the mountains. The map just doesn’t show how to get to the part of the mine that exits to the valley.”
“No. I know that area. There’s no valley there,” Lucas said.
“What do you think it means?” I had to figure this out. It was the key to everything. I knew it was.
“I haven’t been inside the mine, so there’s a chance there’s a hidden exit, but however it connects to the other half… It has to be magic.”
“Maybe it’s just hidden. Using wards to keep outsiders away is common enough. My coven’s compound uses spells like that to keep normal humans from coming near.”
“That’s possible.” He sat back down on the bed. “The fey use similar concealments for their underhill. It would make sense if the old mages had sealed themselves off.”
The only problem was finding the right way out of the mine, but we could figure that out when we saw it for ourselves. “Okay. So we get to the mine, and find our way through to the temple. Then we get whatever’s there and head straight back.” It seemed like everything was lining up. “We’ll make it in time.”
Lucas didn’t say anything as he lifted me up, sliding me onto his lap and pulling me close. Warmth surrounded me as he wrapped his arms around my shoulders. I sighed and followed along, putting my arms around his waist.
I felt safe with him. Secure. It was like coming home.
I was starting to think that maybe Teresa wasn’t so crazy. Not that I really had, but I’d wondered how much she’d chosen mating with Dastien. He’d bitten her and that was that.
I still wasn’t sure if it was what I wanted. The thought of being a wolf definitely seemed crazy. But every passing second with Lucas made me want him more. No one in the coven, not even Shane or Elsa, would understand if I bonded with Lucas. Raphael would flip.
Then again, they might not care if it got them—all of us, really—out of the oath. At least that part wasn’t such a big hurry. The oath pulled on me the worst, and the others were probably safe outside of Luciana’s range by now. Jumping into a mate bond wouldn’t save Raphael from the poison, so I had a little time to think it over.
But I couldn’t help thinking about it as Lucas held me in his arms.
What if I did become his mate?
He smoothed his hand along my hair a few times before speaking. “That Adrian guy was right.”
My throat tightened. “About?”
“You’re not alone. You’ve got me.”
I wouldn’t let myself cry again, but it was hard. “Thanks.”
“And we’re going to save your brother. We’ll move fast.” He pulled away just enough so I could see his face. “We’ll get to San Jose in time.”
He brushed a kiss across my forehead before gently placing me back on the bed. He folded up the map. “Okay, then. We know what we have to do. Now, I’m going to order you some food and then you need to rest.”
What? I didn’t have time to rest. The clock was ticking and I was running out of time. I’d already lost five hours being unconscious. “No. I thought we could leave soon. I told you. My brother is dying.” I swung my legs over the bed, but Lucas stopped me. “I can be ready in five minutes. Maybe less.”