Chapter Seventeen

The next morning, I woke up sore. Lucas had been right. Leaving in the middle of the night would’ve been dumb, but now I was ready. The clock on my bedside table told me it was just after five in the morning.

After I settled down, Lucas had gotten me some food, and then tucked me into bed and left. Exhaustion—emotional, physical, and magical—hit me like a ton of bricks. I’d barely managed to brush my teeth before climbing under the covers. I’d been so worn out that I hadn’t even put on pajamas—I’d just slept in a pair of underwear and my white camisole.

I stretched in bed, and sure, I was achy and the knot on my head was tender, but I’d live. Now, I needed to make sure that my twin did.

I sent a quick text to Adrian confirming that everything was okay. He texted me back with a hotel address and the news that Raphael was still alive. Shane and Beth had done another healing chant, and he was hanging on.

I let myself relax, just a little. My brother was alive. The clock hadn’t run out yet. Now I needed to get packed before Lucas showed up. We might not have time to come back to the hotel before we had to leave for San Jose.

I was trying to shove everything into my backpack when I heard the knock. I closed the distance and swung open the door without thinking twice about it.

“Good morn—” His voice cut off as his gaze slowly slid down my body.

I glanced down and promptly slammed the door in his face.

Holy moly. I was still in my underwear and camisole. He’d probably seen my nipples through my shirt.

I pressed my hands to my heating face. I’d never been so embarrassed in my life.

“Don’t be embarrassed,” Lucas said through the door. “I liked the view.”

My cheeks went from burning to totally on fire. “That’s not helping.” I raced across the room to find my pants from yesterday. I slipped them on, then grabbed a bra and fresh T-shirt. When I was presentable, I opened the door again. “Sorry. I was trying to get everything to fit in my backpack and I…” I took a breath and let it out slowly, before starting again. This time with less rambling. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t paying attention.”

I motioned him into the room as I quickly braided my hair. I was sure if I looked in the mirror I would’ve been doubly embarrassed. Messy hair and no clothes. Way to start the day off right, Claudia. At least he seemed to not be bothered by it.

Oh no. Was I being awkward? We’d been getting close, now I wasn’t sure what to do… Was I supposed to hug him? I mean, I wanted to hug him, but what if he didn’t want to hug me?

Oh God. I wished Teresa or Cosette were here. I so desperately needed advice when it came to these kinds of things.

“Hang on,” Lucas said as he pulled me in for a hug. He ran his hand up and down my back a few times before stepping back. “This still looks bad.” He brushed a finger over the knot on my head. “How are you feeling today?”

I smiled. “Better. Thank you for taking such good care of me.” And for making me feel exponentially less awkward.

“My pleasure.” He grinned and I about melted. “Do you need help getting packed?”

“No. I’m almost finished. Just have to get it to zip.” I motioned to the bed. “Give me one second and I’ll be good to go.”

“Let me help.” He pressed everything down, and got the zipper closed in one smooth move. I’d been fighting with it for the past ten minutes.

“Okay, then.” He swung my pack up like it weighed nothing.

Wolves were ridiculously strong. I always forgot that until one of them did something to remind me how very different they were. “You don’t have to carry that. I can get it.”

“I’ll carry our stuff. Hiking the mountains is tiring enough. You’ve got a head injury, bruised ribs, and some nice gashes… This is easy for me. Let me help you.”

Maybe he had a point. “Okay.”

“Let’s go.”

As we left the hotel, I realized that just one little hug and some reassurance from Lucas had me feeling so much better. How had he done that? Was it some kind of pack magic? Or was it just him?

Either way, I didn’t care. I felt stronger and more sure of myself. We were going to get to Raphael in time. There was no other option.

Failure wasn’t a possibility. I wouldn’t even entertain it.

As we loaded up the car, I let my fear go. It didn’t help anything to be afraid.

Lucas handed me the map. “I’m going to drive us as far as I can, and then we’ll be hiking the rest of the way.”