A strange cold wrapped around her body, a cold that numbed her legs and arms, even while her back burned—burned and throbbed as if a bullet had lodged near her spine.
Not my spine. Lucas’s.
“Sarah? What the hell is happening?”
The gun slipped from her fingers and hit the ground. She opened her mouth, tried to explain to Jordan, but only a ragged moan of pain came from her lips.
“Bastard, you should have died the first time I pumped you full of silver,” Rafe snarled and closed in on Lucas. “Fucking magic won’t save you now. It can’t.”
He lives . . . you live.
Sarah’s eyes squeezed shut as the fire from her back fought that numbing cold in her limbs.
He dies . . . Marie’s voice whispered through her mind. Then you die.
Her eyes flew open. “No!”
Lucas was on the ground, on his hands and knees, trying to push up as the blood poured from his back. Behind him, Rafe had a gun up, aimed, ready to blow that silver bullet into him again.
“Don’t!” Sarah screamed, pushing through the pain and breaking away from Jordan. “Damn you, Rafe, don’t!”
But his fingers squeezed the trigger.
Sarah saw the flash of white behind him. Piers. Running fast. Snarling. Piers!
A red haze of fury rolled back at her.
She’d promised. Said she wouldn’t control—
The hell with that. Lucas’s life was on the line. She’d do anything for him.
“I win, Simone,” Rafe said, lips raised in a half-grin “I win. I’m the legend now.”
Attack, Piers! Take Rafe down!
Piers slammed into Rafe. They fell in a tangle of fur and arms. The gun discharged, but the bullet didn’t hit Lucas.
Sarah started to breathe again.
Then she realized the bullet had struck Piers. The white wolf slumped to the side. His fur began to vanish.
Growls filled the air now. The wolf shifters in Rafe’s pack. They’d been lurking in the shadows but now they sprang forward. Still in the form of men, but with claws out and teeth sharp.
Jordan pushed her behind him and when the first man attacked, he sliced the guy from neck to groin.
“Lucas,” she whispered. He was on his feet now. His wild eyes focused on her.
“You should be dead!” Rafe shoved away from Piers. “You should be fucking dead!” He had his gun pointed at Lucas again.
Lucas turned toward him.
Rafe fired. Once. Twice.
The bullets drove into Lucas’s chest.
He didn’t stumble. Sarah did. She slipped and fell down behind Jordan. He kept fighting. Slicing and clawing and her chest burned. She touched the skin, expecting to see blood. She felt as if she’d been ripped open.
Not me. Lucas.
What had Marie done?
“You’re not killing me . . .” Lucas’s voice rumbled in the night. “But I am taking you . . . to hell, asshole.” She pushed to her knees. Tried to see—
Rafe fired again. The gun clicked then, the chamber jamming. Yes. Lucas swiped with his claws and cut Rafe’s wrist open. The gun fell from his slack fingers.
Rafe’s eyes flew to her. He saw her on the ground, struggling to rise, and he smiled. “Shift!” He roared the order to his men. “The bitch is weak. She can’t do anything but die!”
Lucas’s head whipped toward her. “Sarah!”
“Shift!” Rafe screamed. “And we kill ’em all!”
“Screw the shift.” Lucas’s claws drove into Rafe’s chest. “You’re fucking dying . . . now.”
But it was too late. The men were already shifting around her. Curses turned to snarls and growls and Jordan fought, taking out three men while they were vulnerable during the change. But it wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough. The wolves closed in on Sarah and Jordan.
The bitch is weak. Rafe’s taunt echoed in her ears. Sarah rose slowly, the fire in her chest and back pulsing and sending waves of nausea through her body.
Not my pain. Not my wound. Though it sure felt like it was.
Jordan slashed with his claws, fighting, struggling for all he was worth. Determined to protect her.
Sarah’s focus narrowed. She stared at the snapping wolves and a slow smile curved her lips. “Guess what, assholes?” She sucked in a deep breath and tasted blood. “I’m not weak.”
Rafe was still alive. Still fighting with Lucas. Swiping with his claws even as Lucas carved a hole in the bastard’s chest. Some people just weren’t easy to kill.
Attack Rafe. She ordered his wolves. Kill.
The wolves around her froze.
“Please tell me you’re doing that,” Jordan said. “Please.”
“I am.” She fought to inhale another deep breath. She was in so much pain she could barely stand on her feet. But she didn’t need physical strength. The Other should start understanding that it wasn’t always about physical power.
The wolves spun away and charged at Lucas and Rafe.
Lucas looked up. She saw his eyes widen.
“Back the hell away, Lucas!” Jordan shouted.
Lucas yanked his claws out of Rafe’s chest. Rafe staggered. Blood dripped from his mouth.
The bastard fell.
The wolves swarmed him, attacking their leader at her command.
Sarah’s eyes closed. Kill him . . . then get the hell out of here. Never come back.
Yelps and whimpers had her eyes opening. Looked like the wolves weren’t going to get the chance to run. Lucas was slicing, clawing them, and Dane was at his side. Taking the wolves out. The ones who weren’t already dead turned tail and ran as fast as they could.
Over. Finally, it was over.
Sarah’s shoulders sagged and the last of her energy slipped away. Jordan ran forward, chasing after the fleeing wolves and she fell, her side slamming into the ground. Lucas.
She was so cold. Her body was shaking and her throat—it seemed like she was drowning. She couldn’t suck in enough air. Couldn’t . . .
Sarah saw Lucas fall. He went down, his knees crashing into the earth. Blood soaked his chest. The burning glow in his eyes began to fade.
Rafe had used silver bullets on him. Had they exploded on impact like the others? Three shots.
“Sarah.” She saw his lips move as he whispered her name, and she wanted to go to him. To touch him. To hold him once more.
But she couldn’t move. Rafe was dead, the coyotes were dead, the rival wolves were running—the nightmare was over.
And she was scared. Because Sarah knew that she couldn’t fight anymore. Lucas couldn’t fight. Her heartbeat was slowing, and even though she didn’t have an injury on her body, she knew she was dying.
He lives . . . you live.
She could taste blood on her tongue and see the precious liquid drip past Lucas’s lips.
He dies . . .
Her hand lifted toward him. Just one more touch.
He stretched out his hands, trying to crawl to her side. But Lucas was too far away.
Her legs weren’t working. That meant his weren’t.
“Lucas?” Jordan grabbed him, hauling him up, and swearing when he saw the full damage to his brother’s body. “It’s all right. You’re going to be fine!”
Such a liar.
The fire in her chest wasn’t as strong anymore. Sarah kept her eyes on Lucas. She wouldn’t look away from him. If she was dying, he’d be the last thing she saw in this world.
“Now you understand.”
Sarah didn’t look away at the woman’s soft voice. She couldn’t look away. She’d never seen Lucas’s eyes so pale before. They’d always blazed with life and power. Jordan was trying to stop the blood now, screaming at his brother to “Shift!” But Lucas wasn’t changing.
Sarah swallowed twice and finally managed to speak. “I understood . . .” she whispered, “Long before now . . . Jo-Josette . . .”
The woman bent toward her and cool fingers slid over Sarah’s cheeks. “Was the extra time worth the pain you have? Just a few days, that’s all you got . . . and now you share his agony and soon, his death.”
Was it worth it? “I’d do . . . anything.” Everything. The trade was fair.
Josette leaned in close. “You’ve already done everything,” she whispered, her breath light at Sarah’s ear. “Don’t be afraid.”
She wasn’t. Just . . . sad. There was so much she’d hoped to do. Wanted to do. All with Lucas. “Does he . . . have to die?”
“Wrong question.” A slight wind rustled Sarah’s hair. Josette murmured, “You should ask, ‘Do I have to die?’ ”
“Sometimes . . .” So hard to talk now. She licked her lips and tasted more blood. Lucas still hadn’t shifted. Shift. “Others are worth . . . more.”
“Lucas is worth more to you than your own life?”
Shift. If he’d just shift, he might survive.
“Sarah King . . .” Josette’s hand brushed back her hair. “Do you even know when you gave your heart to the wolf?”
Did it matter when? He had it, just as he had her. Mate. Beyond life. Beyond death.
If only she could touch him one more time.
“You’re going to be fine! Lucas, are you hearing me? You’re going to be fine!” Jordan yelled at him.
His brother had flipped him over and now Jordan’s hands were shoving at his chest, quickly becoming soaked in Lucas’s blood.
“Fine,” Jordan snapped out. “You’re going to be—”
Bullshit. His chest was on fire, burning from the inside out. Damn silver bullets. Blood was rising in his throat, trying to choke him, and the air around him seemed colder. So cold. He wanted to close his eyes and let the pain sweep over him, but...
What was wrong with her? Her face had been too white. Her eyes not the dark green he knew. Instead, lighter, strained. Weak. And she’d fallen to the ground. Her hand had reached for his, and she’d fallen.
Lucas swallowed. Choked, but gasped, “Sarah . . .”
“She’s okay, man. I swear, I didn’t let them so much as touch her.” Clawmarks littered his brother’s chest and arms. “We had to come. Sarah said it was a trap, that Rafe would be ready for you and that he’d have his wolves waiting.”
She’d been right. But . . . if she wasn’t hurt, then why was she on the ground? And why was fear twisting his insides, even as that pain blasted him? Not fear for himself.
“Shift.” Jordan glared down at him. “You have to shift, and you have to shift now.”
He couldn’t even feel the wolf inside. The transformation back to man had been too brutal, fueled by pain and the silver burning his body.
“Sarah . . .” She was his focus. Maybe if he could get to her . . .
His head turned slowly to the right and he saw Dane. The guy’s body was covered in blisters and angry red burns.
“Sarah’s not dying!” Jordan immediately yelled. “Fuck, Dane, why the hell would you say that now? She’s fine, Lucas. Fine. Just shift and everything will be—”
“You still don’t understand what happened, do you?” Dane asked, and his eyes narrowed on Lucas’s face. “I thought you understood magic better than this.”
Jordan swore. “Dammit Dane, you’re not helping—”
“The first time Rafe shot you full of silver, you were dead. No, you should have been dead, but your Sarah made a trade for you.”
No trades would be made tonight. No more magic. Just death.
“Marie said she bound your souls . . .”
A tremor shook Lucas’s body.
“And the minute I saw Sarah sprawled on top of you, hell, I knew she wasn’t just yanking our chains. She did it, Lucas. Marie kept you alive, but the price for that life was a bonding with Sarah. Man and wolf. Hell, if she hadn’t been a wolf charmer, I don’t even know if it would have worked . . .”
Jordan’s hand gabbed Lucas’s chin. “We don’t have time for this. Shift.”
But Dane kept talking. “You’re linked, Alpha. You lived before because Sarah lived. Her soul pulled you back. That was the only free ride you two got. From now on, if you live, she keeps living.”
No, no. Because he knew what was coming. Knew—
“And if you die, then she dies too.”
He wrenched his head and managed to look at Sarah. His damn legs weren’t working or he would have gone to her. He’d already tried to crawl once. Must get ...
“So listen to your brother,” Dane snarled. “You want to live, you want her to live, then you fucking find the strength to shift. There’s no mambo to bring you back tonight.”
Maybe that had been part of Rafe’s master plan all along. He’d taken out the mambo so magic couldn’t aid Lucas. Dominos, all falling down . . .
“So you save yourself and you save your mate,” Dane ordered. “Because otherwise, she’s dying for you.”
Sarah wasn’t supposed to die. Sarah wasn’t supposed to hurt. Sarah was supposed to be safe, happy. Free.
His claws dug into the earth and he fought to pull the wolf back, to raise him through the fire and agony that burned his body.
Sarah wasn’t dying. He wouldn’t let her.
“I can’t help you.” Josette’s hand fell away from Sarah. “I wish I could, but I’m not . . . strong enough.” Tears thickened her voice. “I’m so sorry.”
“Just . . .” Was that really her talking? The voice was so weak, so broken. “Just . . . get me to h-him . . .” Could Josette even understand her?